Upon meeting Jackie Moore for the first time, you quickly learn he's not into nuance. At first introduction, he measures you up with the intense eye of a practiced appraiser — someone who's spent almost ¾ of his life in the livestock auction business.
His handshake telegraphs his confident nature. In his corner of the world, he moves like the heavyweight champ, exchanging greetings and flinging one-liners in all directions to a public that all seem to know him.
He admits to having a short attention span — a trait he says serves him well in his chosen profession. He seems to operate at just one speed — flat out. And indecision — in either word or action — isn't something he seems to wrestle with. Sample some of these quotes:
“I don't like whiners. I don't want to associate with whiners or work with them. There's too much opportunity and life's too short to waste your time whining.”
“This business has been good to me, but everything I try doesn't work out. I've made money and lost money in this business. But I tell you what — I'm always going to stay positive. By looking at me, you'll never know if I just made a bundle or lost a bundle.”
“All this bashing each other in public that's been going on in this industry doesn't do anything but hurt ourselves. I'll duke it out with anyone behind closed doors, but in public, I'll root for everyone who was in that room to do good.”
“There are an awful lot of folks in the livestock market business who are lazy and never strive to do anything beyond collect a commission, and I've told some of them that.”
Order buyer Joe Day of El Dorado, KS, who's bought cattle at JRS for more than 25 years, characterizes Moore much more succinctly: “He's got the biggest pair on anybody I've ever known, and you can print that.”
It's all he's known
Moore says he's a product of his upbringing — a small cow-calf operation his 79-year-old dad still runs, and 35 years spent working in the operation he now co-owns with Steve Owens, his brother-in-law and friend since first grade.
The 46-year-old Moore got his start at the old Joplin yards as a 13-year-old. He's never wanted to do anything else.
Owens went to college and became a certified public accountant. Moore stayed home and eventually bought a commission at the Joplin yards, which at that time was a faint competitor to the hefty livestock trade going on in nearby Springfield.
Driving by the old Joplin yards one day, Moore says the idea came to him to buy the operation. That's how his inspirations usually come, he adds, by stewing on the multitude of informational bits he picks up in his non-stop contact with business associates, clients and contacts.
In 1986 he, Owens, their father-in-law, and two brothers-in-law — their wives are all sisters — partnered up to buy the old Joplin yards, which at that time marketed 90,000 head/year. The partners built the current JRS facility in Carthage in 1995, which is today the nation's largest cow-calf auction. Moore and Owens bought out the other family interests in 2000.
Today, the JRS operation is one big extended family. Owens handles the financial side of the operation as vice president, while Mark Harmon, a friend to both of them since boyhood, serves as head of public relations and marketing.
“I pretty much have always handled the customers,” Moore says. “Steve has the business mind. I'm just a cowman and people person, and I've known most of the people we do business with all my life.”
A perfect partnership
“I'm the visionary, the idea man. I dream up the programs and it's the great partners and people I work with who figure out how to get them done,” Moore says. “I spend zero time in the office, and don't carry a calculator or a computer. I rely on business cards, buyers' cards, a cell phone and my good memory.”
Moore's wife Kristy, their sons Bailey and Skyler, and son-in-law Dusty Eldridge are involved in the business. Their daughter Amy Eldridge is a stay-at-home mother raising four children.
Steve's wife, Shelly, handles accounts payable, son Dalton is a freshman at the University of Arkansas (UA), and daughter Daley is married and also attends UA.
About 40 full-time and 60 part-time employees, with an average time of service of 15 years, are employed at the Carthage facility. It features 7.5 acres under roof with pipe fences that can hold approximately 7,500 head, with half of them in feed and water pens. In addition, 21 outside traps with feed and water have capacity for an additional 5,000 cattle.
Among the longtime JRS employees is Loyde Alumbaugh, who's worked the Joplin operation for 53 years.
“My dad broke his back when I was 16 and I had to go to work. I've been here ever since,” Alumbaugh says, after being introduced by Moore as we tour the JRS facility in his pickup. Alumbaugh leans into the truck window, looking past Moore behind the wheel, and adds, “Jackie Moore is my hero.”
“You're my hero,” Moore responds.
A total of 450,000 head of cattle, mostly 300- to 900-lb. calves, or $300 million in volume, sell annually through JRS from a client base of 22,000 sellers. More than 800,000 value-added program cattle alone have sold through the facility since fall 1997. Since June 2004, 200,000 cattle have sold carrying radio-frequency ID (RFID) nested tag sets.
I'll run while they sleep
“They were young, hard-working guys,” Day says with a chuckle as he recalls the frenetic energy Moore and Owens brought to the area with their 1986 purchase.
“Jackie was out beating the bushes. He wasn't afraid to take chances, and he ran the wheels off his truck calling on people. The commission men in the old stockyards didn't know what hit them,” Day adds.
Moore admits he sets a torrid pace.
“My philosophy has always been to go faster than anyone else. My deal is if they're asleep, I'm awake and trying to get their customers,” he says.
Moore says his drive comes from growing up, like Owens, on small farms in Stotts City, a little town not far from Carthage.
“I know how important these cattle and the income from them is to these folks,” Moore says.
The morning I met Moore at 7 a.m., he was moving briskly out his home's front door, coffee in hand, hungry for the day in starched, well-creased jeans and a bright red shirt. Just five hours before, he'd finished a 25-hour work shift on one meal after Owens, Harmon and he had put the finishing touches on the previous day's business.
About 10,000 head of calves — in lots of one head to straight pot loads — had been put through the sale ring, plus another 2,000 video-auction cattle. A total of 700 sellers were represented in the day's sale.
Late that night, the trio was still going, chatting to 150 or so customers and their families at an appreciation dinner in the Pierce City High School gym. They'd done the same thing the previous night in Springfield, two of 30 such JRS programs each spring and fall for customers, treating them to a free steak dinner and an educational session.
“It's a way to get industry information out to producers, and a chance to visit with them and show our appreciation,” Moore says.
After dinner, the night's program would include health and feeding information, the latest industry trends, and discussion on value-added calf-marketing opportunities. The big topic was the anticipated reopening of Japan to U.S. beef, and how producers could take advantage of healthy premiums likely for age-verified cattle.
“Our job is to work as hard as we can for our customers to make them aware of industry trends and opportunities,” Moore says. “We're not out to tell them how to run their operation.
“We want our customers to make all they can but it's up to them to participate. In most cases, JRS doesn't make any more money, and I tell them that,” Moore adds. “Because of that, I think the producer regards us as a more honest source of information.”