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High-quality cattle get spotlight

Video cattle auctions, long a novelty, are now a staple of the livestock industry.

High-quality cattle get spotlight

Video cattle auctions, long a novelty, are now a staple of the livestock industry.

Since their inception more than 30 years ago, current estimates are 20% of the nation’s non-slaughter cattle sell by video. During a two-week period in July, four individual video auctions offered more than 600,000 head. In such an established environment, new ideas become rare.

Three men with lifetimes spent in the cattle and auction businesses have joined forces to create a new twist to the status quo. Lex and Shawn Madden of Torrington, Wyo., are the only brother team to have won individual World Livestock Auctioneering Championship titles in the contest’s 47-year history.

Along with Michael Schmitt of Henry, Neb., the Maddens’ partner in Wyoming’s largest livestock auction, Torrington Livestock, the trio have created Cattle Country Video, designed to bring a new concept to video marketing.

Showcase cattle

“We felt video auctions were becoming too large to adequately represent consignors’ cattle,” says Lex. “The seven-state region of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Utah and Montana produce the highest-quality cattle in large strings in the country but were lost in huge weeklong video offerings. We established Cattle Country Video to showcase these cattle exclusively.”

The idea was to be well-received by consignors. “We expected 25,000 cattle for our inaugural event in Cheyenne, Wyo. We had over 51,000 head,” Lex says.

"Torrington Livestock’s 80-year history combined with new technology to boost CCV’s success,” says Shawn. “When cattle video auctions began, everyone gathered around a television hooked to a big satellite dish at central locations. Later technology allowed most to watch on their home televisions. Modern advances now allow people to watch the live feed on their office computer screen. Production costs have dropped to make smaller auctions feasible and allow more time to be spent on each consignor’s cattle.”

Schmitt worked in the auction business since he was 10 years old, joining Torrington Livestock 19 years ago.

“Cattle buyers today are well-informed and extremely choosey,” he says. “A smaller auction allows us to take extra time to point out an exceptional value of a consignor’s cattle. We cannot guarantee sellers a price. We can guarantee that our organization will give everyone 100% effort to get top dollar for their cattle.

“We are aware that not every string of cattle fits our video auction. Many should go to an auction barn to be merchandised in smaller drafts. An auction and its staff is still the best value in the livestock industry.”

All three men say video auctions are only as good as the field representatives who solicit consignments and supervise deliveries. Thirty quality individuals and livestock auctions spanning their service area work to ensure it works for buyers and sellers alike.

“Many great video organizations have pioneered this business,” says Lex. “We are proud to join them in support of the true price discovery method of the competitive livestock auction.”


Hodgson writes from Brush, Colo.

Sale day is worth the wait

Sale day on a cattle ranch is the biggest day of the year. For a family operation such as the 107-year-old Dunn Ranch near Harrison, Neb., that meant three generations of Dunns made the three-hour trek to Cheyenne, Wyo., to watch their steers sell at auction.

While earlier generations had perched on rows of benches as draft after draft of cattle were driven through the sales ring, conditions were considerably different here. The family gathered around one of the large, white-linen-covered round tables in the Little America Banquet Hall to join hundreds of others as theater-sized screens displayed consignments of cattle from ranches like theirs. Finally, at 10:26 a.m. the first of three drafts representing their year’s efforts walked on to the screen. Less than 10 minutes later the auctioneers declared “sold” on the last of their three lots.

Faint smiles began to replace the subtle nervousness. Heads came together around calculators. There were no cheers. This wasn’t a victory, merely a just reward for long month’s of hard work by the entire family.

At noon, waiters served a full roast beef dinner on the white line table that was their conference table minutes before, quite a change from past decades.


VIDEO PIONEERS: Lex Madden (left), Shawn Madden and Michael Schmitt created Cattle Country Video. Photos by Sue Hodgson

This article published in the October, 2010 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.

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