2018 Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo Agribusinessman of the Year: Scott Dirk
January 16, 2018
The Black Hills Stock Show has always been a natural hub for farmers and ranchers to gather in the middle of winter, said Scott Dirk. Sometimes he can walk across the barn in half an hour, but most of the time it takes him longer because there are so many familiar faces, and he enjoys visiting with every one of his friends in the business, said Tri-State Livestock News' director of field services, from Vale, South Dakota.
It is his friendliness and deep roots in the industry, and BHSS, that led the selection committee to name Scott Dirk as the BHSS Agri-Business person of the year for 2018.
The BHSS is kind of like a mini-Denver, but better in many cases. "It's closer to home, and it's all under one roof. People come from all over to attend the Stock Show. And you still know 80 percent of the people in the barn," he said.
Since his first time working a sale there in the early 2000s, Dirk has watched a lot of quality cattle with impressive price tags walk through the ring.
This year he will work ringside at six to eight sales during BHSS with a quick trip to Calloway, Nebraska, for another bull sale in between. Plus he'll announce the Commercial Heifer Show, all between Jan. 26 and Feb. 2. Additionally, he's sending TSLN fieldmen to at least eight other livestock sales throughout the region. "It will be a week with no sleep. Just like a typical week during bull sale season," he said of the BHSS.
The excitement of a sale and the lifelong friends he continues to make are the two biggest reasons Scott Dirk continues to put on close to 50,000 miles every year traveling to bull sales in the region.
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“I try to hide in the back as much as I can and stay the heck out of the way,” he joked, regarding the secret to his success.
Dirk, who provides ring service to about 115 production sales per year, said that the people in the livestock industry are “some of the best people in the world.”
Dirk said in the 22+ years he’s been in the livestock marketing business, the cattle have improved considerably. “There is more uniformity, more consistency, from top to bottom.”
Improved performance testing, the introduction of and attention to EPDs and more stringent phenotypic culling have all contributed to the overall improvement of cattle in the region, Scott said. Technology has allowed for genetic testing, which is giving producers another selection tool.
One of his most noted memories of BHSS sales is from about 15 years ago two of the top PRCA calf ropers at the time Blair Burke and Fred Whitfield were bidding against each other on a horse at the BHSS Horse Sale.
"Blair Burke won the bidding war that day. I think he gave $12,000 for him," Dirk remembers.
The good sales at BHSS and beyond provide another kind of high.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” Dirk said.
“There’s nothing more thrilling and exhilarating than to work with a good auctioneer and a good ring crew,” he said. “When everyone is on and the bidding is there, it works like a well – oiled machine.”
Fellow Tri-State Livestock News ringman and former auctioneer Dan Piroutek “has been extremely supportive and helpful,” to him since he joined the newspaper’s team in 2009, Dirk said.
Dirk regrets never getting to work ringside with Billings-based auctioneer Pat Goggins but said he is fortunate to have worked with his son Joe Goggins, as well as several other industry greats Craig Conover and Al Conover, both of Iowa, and South Dakota auctioneers Lynn Weishaar and Seth Weishaar, Jim Birdwell, Roger Jacobs and many more. “Some of the best auctioneers in the country are here in the Dakotas,” Dirk said.
Humility is not a trait that every livestock ringman possesses, but Dirk is not just any ringman. Purebred cattle auctioneers Craig Conover of Mapleton, Iowa, and Lynn Weishaar of Reva, South Dakota, both remark on his humble demeanor and strong work ethic.
“There were so many of them that thought they knew it all but they weren’t the ones with dirt under their fingernails with the grassroots connections,” Conover said, regarding new ringmen in Dirk’s era. Dirk stood out as a livestock marketer with integrity and without arrogance, and he quickly gained Conover’s respect.
Lynn Weishaar agrees.
“He handles the crowd well. Scott comes in low key and common, not cocky. He does as good a job as anybody plus the crowd trusts him. He has a trust element with the customers.”
Weishaar knew Dirk as a young man and said he “worked real hard” to achieve his dream. “He’s pretty modest. He worked hard and tried hard. He learned the hard way. There weren’t other ringmen or newspaper people in his family.” But it is Dirk’s modesty that sets him apart in the field. “There is no bragging in him. He’ll tend to his business,” Weishaar said.
Tri-State Livestock News Publisher Bree Poppe appreciates Dirk’s willingness to go the distance.
“I am elated to hear about this recognition for Scott, and I just want to thank the Black Hills Stock Show for this great honor for him. Going far beyond what he does for Tri-State Livestock News, his commitment to the cattle industry and its producers in general is evident and admirable. Scott exudes an extremely high level of integrity, sincerity and humility in all that he does, both professionally and personally.” The service he provides producers is superior, she said. “We are very proud of Scott here at Tri-State, feeling fortunate he hangs his hat here and leads our livestock marketing endeavors.”
Being early to a bull sale is important in his line of work, Dirk said. “The last thing in the world the producer wants to worry about is where his ring help is. He’s got a lot more to worry about on sale day.” In his twenty years of working sales he recalls being late one time, due to a 15-inch snowfall.
Arriving at the sale two hours early and always looking over the cattle beforehand are two of Dirk’s rules of thumb.
He said he appreciates the recognition from the Black Hills Stock Show. "The Black Hills Stock Show is always a chance to catch up with those producers you talk to on the phone but haven't seen in a while."
One of the notable improvements in the BHSS in recent years is the addition of the Events Center at the Central States Fairgrounds which has allowed for significant growth in horse-related events including horse shows, barrel racings, team ropings, cuttings and more, he said.
Burning the midnight oil and keeping the highway well-traveled would not be possible without a supportive family and Dirk said his is the best. Wife Shannon, sons Austin (18) and Chase (14) and daughter Shaley (14) have given him fantastic support, and now that the kids are growing older, they are able to help keep things in order at home, he said.
Shannon said she and the kids travel to as many sales as they can with Scott. The people they meet at the sales, in a way, have become like extended family. They really enjoy going to the BHSS also. "It's always kind of a vacation for us. We get rooms, the kids go swimming and they like walking around the trade show, going to the shows and rodeos," she said.
Dirk grew up on a small acreage at Shadehill, South Dakota, with 7 brothers and sisters. He attended Shadehill Country School through the sixth grade and graduated from Lemmon High School in 1984
“Like every other country boy, I wanted to be a rancher someday,” he remembers. “Beyond that I guess I just wanted to make a successful living and keep my bills paid.”
He attended Sturgis Vo-Tech, graduating with an Ag Production and Management degree, graduating in 1986, then spent a year in Australia working at one of the country’s largest cattle feedlots, then at a horse training facility, where he helped keep the horses in shape. The facility was home to the only living son of Leo at the time. “It was a pretty ritzy place,” he recalls.
Upon his return home, Dirk worked as a ranch hand for Paul Huffman who now owns Lemmon Livestock. He processed calves and rode on over 8,000 yearlings.
From there he went to work for the “Green Sheet” based in Aberdeen, then to the Western Livestock Reporter, now the Western Ag Reporter, out of Billings, then the Sioux Falls-based Tri-State Neighbor and in 2009 he accepted an offer to work for Tri-State Livestock News.