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Cattlemen from throughout the West paid a record $90,942 Wednesday for some of the finest purebred bulls ever sold in Utah, signaling renewed optimism in the cattle industry.

Bill Sorenson, Axtell, Sanpete County, and Val Samuelson, Riverton, editor of the Utah Cattleman magazine, said the sixth annual Cattlemen's Classic Bull Sale, sponsored by the Utah Cattlemen's Association, brought a record average of $1,977 for 46 bulls at the sale held at the Livestock Pavilion at the Utah State Fairgrounds.The sale was one of the highlights of the opening day of the annual three-day Utah Cattlemen's Association Convention being held in the Marriott Hotel in Salt Lake City.

Sorenson said cattle production in the United States has been down slightly, but demand for beef is high and rising. "This, coupled with the optimism shown at our bull sale, should spell good things next year for our industry."

The top selling bull was Shandar Pine Drive 28, a purebred Angus owned by the Shandar Angus Ranch, Payson, which was purchased by the Victor Land and Livestock Co., Logan, for $4,000.

The second highest priced bull was another Angus, T Timbers Ebony Escort 705 owned by the Rocky Rivers Ranch, Rigby, Idaho, which was purchased by the Victor Land and Livestock Co. for $3,600.

Gary Rose, Park Valley, Box Elder County, president of the Utah Cattlemen's Association, said the whole cattle picture looks bright after more than a decade of price slumps. He said the $1 checkoff that cattlemen pay for each beef steer sold is one answer.

"We are helping ourselves. The money is going for research, advertising, education and industry information. We've paid a great deal of attention to the first three over the past few years and next year we are going to expand our industry information program," Rose said.

"There has been a great deal of unfounded, unfair criticism about cattlemen destroying the rangeland, muddying streams, tainting beef with chemicals. We are going to answer these criticisms - most of them from Eastern environmental groups."

Rose said environmentalists have had some constructive criticism over the years, but too much wrong information is being spread.

"We've been raising cattle in the West for more than 125 years and our land is in better shape now than it has ever been. We are constantly improving the land.

"We need rivers and streams to water our cattle and criticism that cattle are muddying the streams is ridiculous. Cattlemen are taking great pains to slow and halt erosion. We don't want to lose topsoil. We are more concerned about the land than any environmentalist - it is our bread and butter."

Rose said America in on the brink of a great new movement to sell agricultural products, especially beef, abroad. "The world is hungry for our beef. New exports can only enrich our country, change the balance of payments in our favor and bring America new prosperity."

He said criticism about chemicals in meat is unfounded. "Cattlemen want the purest, leanest and most wholesome beef possible. There certainly have been some unscrupulous farmers in the past, but we are a self-policing organization and we want to weed out anybody who is hurting our industry.

"I hope the housecleaning that was done in the cattle industry from 1979 to 1986 has gotten rid of people who have misused chemicals."

Rose said organic farming - without pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers - won't work in America. "We can't go back 100 years. The reason we have cheap food in America and the reason American farmers can feed their own country and the whole world is because of the scientific advances in agriculture.

"Science shouldn't be viewed as harmful, but helpful. The cattle industry is using science to produce more and better meat at less cost."