Video auctions change landscape of cattle salesWHITEWOOD — A video cattle auction at Thompson Livestock nestled on a ranch outside of Whitewood draws sellers from all over the tri-state region — who end up trading more than 2 million head of cattle in any given year.
By: HEATHER MURSCHEL, The Black Hills Pioneer
WHITEWOOD — A video cattle auction at Thompson Livestock nestled on a ranch outside of Whitewood draws sellers from all over the tri-state region — who end up trading more than 2 million head of cattle in any given year.
“This is a huge business especially when you think about the fact that we cater to at least 7,000 buyers,” said Tommy Thompson, who began working with Superior Livestock Auction nearly 30 years ago to bring satellite auctions to the Black Hills.
The first of its kind in the area, Thompson believes it was one of the best business decisions he’s ever made.
“It was something that was very new at the time, but we had a hunch this was something that was going to be successful so we jumped in,” Thompson said.
Headquartered in Brush, Colo., Superior Livestock Auction broadcasts their auctions throughout the world — which allows his customers to get the most competitive bids as possible. During their busiest times, it can be trading upwards of 200,000 head of cattle — a positive for both the buyer and the seller. In 2012 alone, it had 44 auctions scheduled in Texas, Wyoming, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.
Jerry Ista, a rancher from Hulett, Wyo., has worked with Thompson for more than 10 years.
“I actually prefer a satellite auction because in many cases we are happy with the sale,” he said. “And because the buyers themselves pick up the cattle. There (are) no freight expenses.”
And, if the cattle don’t sell or go for the right price, the seller can pull their cattle from the auction and sell them at a later auction at no cost to them.
“If you don’t like the market that day then you don’t have to sell. whereas when I used to bring them to a sale barn in town you never knew how well they’ll do,” Ista said.
Ista also said because you don’t need to transport the cattle to the sale barn — and that’s less stressful on the animal.
So how do they get the cattle on camera?
Berch Negaard, who represents Thompson Livestock as one of its agents, said his job is to capture the cattle in their natural environment.
“I actually go out to the ranch and make a video so the buyer can see how the cattle have been raised,” Negaard said. “It’s great and the exposure we get is unbelievable.”
In addition to the video, the seller must also consign their cattle in the official Superior Livestock Auction catalog a week prior to the day of the auction. All of the sellers’ information is then compiled in order to allow the buyer to garner any additional information. Pertinent information, such as weight, breed, the type of feed used and the delivery date are included.
Thompson said this time of year the firm average about two satellite auctions a month and two Internet auctions a month — which are usually held on a Friday. Starting in June there are auctions almost every day because that is when the market really kicks into high gear.
During the busy months, Thompson’s office bustles with sellers who are about to find out their fate — which is being streamed through a large screened television in the corner of the room. Each sale is separated by a lot number — and in many cases it only takes seconds for the sale to go through.
“We like it when there’s a crowd,” said Thompson. “It means business is good and that’s what we want.”