CLARINDA, Iowa — The role of the sale barn may have changed over the years, but Frank Hoepker says one thing remains the same.
“We work for our clientele,” he says. “They are very supportive of us, and we appreciate it.”
Hoepker and co-owner John Anderson purchased the Clarinda Livestock Auction four years ago. Most of their clients are from southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri. Prior to purchasing the Clarinda site, the pair worked the barn for United Producers in Maryville, Mo.
“We’ve worked together for over 25 years, so we know each other pretty well,” Hoepker says.
Not long after buying the Clarinda site, a new facility was constructed, complete with newer technology to make the auction process more efficient, not only for staff members but for producers as well, he says.
“You can watch a sale on a big-screen TV if you want,” Hoepker says.
“We may have some new technology, but it’s still about customer service and having quality cattle to sell.”
Clarinda Livestock Market has a cull cow sale each Tuesday, and a feeder cattle sale every other Thursday. The April 25 auction featured nearly 3,500 head on the sale bill. Hoepker says the market offers several other special sales throughout the year.
An emphasis is placed on animal health and welfare, he says. Nose-to-nose contact between cattle is limited as much as possible, and pens are cleaned after each sale. The market works with pre-conditioning programs in Iowa and Missouri.
Hoepker says some markets have utilized online bidding during auctions, but he prefers to have buyers on site.
“We still want those buyers in the seats,” he says. “I hate to have them compete against someone who isn’t even here.”
Hoepker says his market offers other technology, such as outside cameras that help identify any issues with cattle waiting for the sale.
Most markets have gone through some changes over the past 20 years, says Chelsea Good, vice president of government and industry affairs for the Livestock Marketing Association.
She says technology has allowed markets to reach a broader audience through the online streaming of auctions, allowing sellers to watch the sale even if they cannot be there. Online bidding is also popular with some markets, Good says.
Livestock markets are also involved in helping producers meet different requirements when it comes to rules and regulations.
“If you need an official ID if you are taking cattle across state lines, the livestock markets will make sure you stay in compliance,” she says.
Good says the LMA has made animal welfare a top priority, creating a guide to help train and educate market employees on how to properly handle livestock.
“Our markets go through an assessment of their animal handling techniques,” she says, adding changes could be recommended after that assessment.
The LMA and its members are also involved in disease prevention, working with the USDA and state governments on programs designed to limit movement in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak.
Good says livestock markets play a key role in the ag economy. She says 31 million cattle are sold each year at livestock markets, along with 7 million hogs and 3 million sheep.
“Our markets are a huge part of that industry,” Good says.
He says prices have been decent for the most part as the area crawls out of a bitter winter.
“I would say we lost enough head to fill a 3,000 head sale,” Hoepker says. “It’s been very brutal around here.”
But, he says, spring is here and he and his staff are plenty busy.
“We are very blessed to have the clientele we have here,” Hoepker says. “I don’t think anyone is still growing their herds, but they are maintaining numbers, and that should result in some great sales this year.”