RICHFORD, Vt. -
After 30 miles down back roads, we knew we'd made it when we spotted all the cars and trucks and heard the sound of the auctioneer.
"Sold her! Jamie Black has the bid at $38,000," the auctioneer announced with a bang of the gavel.
That's right-- $38,000 for one cow sold under the tent in Richford, a couple miles from the Canadian border.
"An elite cow is just like a great athlete," said Tim Abbott, who owns St. Jacobs Animal Breeding. "They're extremely athletic in their build; they've got great genetics."
Genetics that are proving profitable for people like Abbott who grew up in Cabot.
"This is very similar to horse racing. We track their pedigree. We track their performance and it's all statistical models that tell us how good they can be genetically and that's what makes them valuable," Abbott explained.
"You know their family tree; you know their pedigrees and backgrounds for generations. We can trace her ancestors back to the cows that came here in the 1880s," said Kathleen O'Keefe, who came all the way from Wisconsin for this auction.
"She's just a beautifully built calf," O'Keefe said of one calf. "She's kind of a top model individual."
You could say that about all 200 cows that walked the runway, or rather the ring.
"The reason these cows are bringing so much money is because they have genetics people can market from and make money selling embryos and daughters around the world," Abbott said.
Vermont's cows have become rock stars around the world and technology is creating an international business.
"Today we can send different animals genetics, like embryos and semen, we can send that around the world through frozen liquid nitrogen shipment," Abbott said. "So they can go anywhere in the world, so technology has really changed it."
That's the part you don't see in this family affair where babies and kids in cowboy boots playing on their iPhones sit next to adults bidding on the next generation of cows. For Abbott, who bought St. Jacobs Animal Breeding Corporation three years ago, this is a dream come true.
"When we bought the company we wanted it run in Vermont," he said. "And it's kind of neat to run a multimillion dollar business in the hills of Vermont.
Keeping a tradition alive while embracing the advances that give other parts of the world the advantage Vermont has always had-- great pedigree!
Buyers came from as far as Mexico for Wednesday's auction.
Abbott says some of the biggest business these days comes from in vitro fertilization of purebred Holsteins.