Huron auction barn may change hands | TSLN.com

Huron auction barn may change hands

Kent Bales, Kim Ulmer and Alan Bales stop for a photo outside of the Huron auction market. Courtesy photo

Kim Ulmer of Mobridge, S.D., and three business partners recently applied for an auction agency license through the South Dakota Animal Industry Board in hopes of soon owning and operating the Bales Continental Commission Company of Huron, S.D.

To many in the cattle business, the Ulmer name is likely familiar. Kim bought and operated the Britton, S.D. auction barn at 21 years of age. He has been order buying since 1988 as Ulmer Cattle Company out of Mobridge. His family has been a part of many South Dakota markets including those in McLaughlin, Lemmon, Herried and Mobridge in addition to Britton's, he said.

"In 1974 my dad bought McLaughlin. I've been in the business my whole life, I graduated in 1981 and I've been in the business since high school graduation, so I've been doing this for 33 years," he explained.

Along with Ulmer, Mark Preston of Armstrong, Iowa, Donald Schiefelbein of Kimball, Minn., and Caleb Schott of Pryor, Mont., comprise Livestock R Us and will operate Huron Continental Marketing Company if the auction agency license is approved. They are optimistic that by September the sale and licensing will be complete. The Animal Industry Board plans to take up the topic at their Aug. 18 regular meeting to be held in their Pierre office. The public may attend and comment.

Ulmer said they plan to continue serving the ranchers in the area, helping to connect buyers and sellers in the livestock industry.

Regular sale days, according to current co-owner and third generation business operator Kent Bales of Huron, are Thursdays for all classes of cattle and Tuesdays for feeder cattle during the busier months of October through May. During 2013, around 60,000 head were marketed through the barn, and about 30-40 people are employed either full or part-time at the family business.

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Ulmer's cattle marketing company currently handles ranch direct marketing of cattle along with order buying. They find buyers for load lots of cattle using internet listings. The business partners who will manage Huron Continental Marketing Company plan to continue offering those cattle marketing options, along with a live auction and machinery auction segment of the business.

Ulmer said he and his partners plan to maintain "a lot of the staff, along with some new players that will be helping," assuming their license is approved. "I haven't made any commitments," he said regarding auctioneers. "I'm an auctioneer too and so is Alan Bales. "We'll be interviewing with the Bales family, current auctioneer Jim Anderson, those decisions will be announced later in August," he said.

Additional changes will include the options of live online bidding and online viewing of the auction market sales. Ulmer said the partners plan to offer the opportunity to sell fat cattle market, bred cows, and all classes of cattle. "We are going to consider sheep and hogs" he added.

Some things have changed in the thirteen years he and his brother Alan have owned "Bales."

"A lot of our customers have grown in to larger herds," Kent said. "Years ago you might deal with 50 to 100 head and now you are often dealing with 250 to 500 for each operator."

Bales also commented on the trend among plains farmers to turn native or introduced grassland into farmland. "

"We see a lot of the grassland being torn up and fences being torn out and moving into crop production," he said.

A steadily increasing market in the last several months has been a positive change Bales noted, adding that producers in his region rely heavily on the local auction barn for marketing their cattle. "Out west video and internet sales and private treaty sales have replaced a lot of the auction market business but in our particular area was haven't seen that. Because of that we maintain a loyal customer base," Bales added.

For more information about the Animal Industry Board hearing contact the state veterinarian's office at 605-773-5459.

Auctioneer contest planned

Quick-witted folks with a fast tongue and an eye for cattle will want to pay attention to an upcoming contest Kim Ulmer has planned for the Huron auction barn. “I will call it the Dakota Cut Auctioneering Contest. I want to help those young auctioneers that come out of school and don’t have a chance to auction,” he said.

“I’ll work with auctioneers from the region that want to get a chance on the auction block and sell some cattle. We’ll schedule practice times to practice on weigh-up cows so they can get used to the facility prior to the contest,” he added. Prize money will help lure even seasoned auctioneers who will be automatically qualified if they are full time sellers.

“I know a dozen young people that are ranchers who’ve gone to auctioneer school. We’ll give them a chance to get an identity established. If they are willing to take the time to drive to Huron, I’ll make sure they sell cattle.” Inexperienced auctioneers can qualify for the competition by taking advantage of the practice times. Videos of practices will be sent home with competitors, Ulmer said.

“Once they are able to enter the competition, it will give them a tremendous boost,” Ulmer said.

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