A new era for Martin Livestock
After 22 years of marketing cattle, Brad and Shelly Otte are selling something different– two of their businesses.
Martin Livestock Auction and the cafe are changing hands after nearly seven decades of family ownership.
Brad and Shelly Otte, Martin, South Dakota, announced they are in the process of selling the barn and restaurant to Brian and Dawn Jaeger of Martin (formerly from Platte) and Ross and Amy Ringling of Platte, South Dakota.
Brian Jaeger looks forward to working out the details with the Packers and Stockyards Administration when the government is back in operation, and the state animal industry board, in order to finalize the sale of the business which typically moves about 30,000 head of cattle per year. He hopes the deal will be complete by sometime in March.
The new owners don’t have any major changes in the works for the time being. “Pretty much all of the staff will stay for a while,” said Jaeger.
Both the Jaegers and the Ringlings are new to the auction barn aspect of the industry, but Jaeger was previously employed with a feedlot near Platte, and Ross was a feedlot co-owner and now runs a trucking business, said Brian.
The new owners will also take over management of the salebarn café.
Brad Otte won’t be leaving anytime soon. He will stay on to help teach the new owners some of the ins and outs of the business, will continue working the auction block, and will serve as a part time field man he said.
“They asked me to maintain a relationship with some of our key customers, and stay on as an auctioneer,” he said.
Otte said he and his wife Shelly were open to the idea of selling the business but hadn’t advertised it.
The biggest change Brad and Shelly saw in the 22 years they operated the barn was the influence of technology, he said. “Back in the day, we didn’t have any of the Internet products that are available now. Today we broadcast the sale on the Internet. Lots of people buy cattle this way.”
Otte said when he and his wife bought the place, some of the buyers had their own phone lines and would even bring their own phones and plug them into a line. “Now we rarely get a call during the day on the land line.”
When they first ran the salebarn, the scale was computerized, but nothing else. “Today, everything is immediate. When they press ‘sold’ on the block, it’s on the computer inside the office. We can print the check within 30 seconds.”
But through it all and perhaps despite the technological advances, it is still a business of connecting the right people with the right cattle, he said.
Although, as with any business, it seems they are more likely to hear when the calves got sick than when they gained surprisingly well, Otte said it is always encouraging to hear when a buyer is happy with the cattle he purchased. “It makes you feel good when they are pleased with the results. It makes it easy to represent the cattle and encourage the producer and tell them they did a good job, and I feel like we’ve been successful in our work.”
Always representing the seller, marketing cattle brings with it the stress of handling many neighbors’ yearly paychecks. “You’re dealing with their livelihood. They entrust you to sort them right, they entrust you to sell them right.”
Shelly’s grandfather William (Bill) Porch, along with several others, built Martin Livestock Commission Company in 1951. Her parents, Billy and Judy Porch, maintained the barn after her grandfather died in 1982, changing the name to Martin Auction Company.
The couple put up a new building, and in 1983, hosted their first sale in it. Since 1978, Brad and Shelly have worked at the salebarn.
The two bought the enterprise in 1997, again re-naming it: Martin Livestock Auction. On sale day, they employ 30-40 people. “We’ve had great people work for us over the years,” said Otte. “They’ve always worked hard and we appreciate that.”
The Ottes will now have more time to focus on their real estate and farm and ranch auction enterprise. Shelly had overseen the café, and will still be available to fill in if needed on occasion, she said. “We’re cutting back from five jobs to three,” she explained. Brad is a Real Estate Broker licensed in South Dakota and Nebraska since 1992, and
he will continue to conduct all types of live and soon online auctions.
The couple also summers yearlings and backgrounds calves.
The barn will continue their Monday sale schedule. The Jan. 21, 2019, sale was fairly small, reported Jaeger. A local producers’ age dispersion of cows was one of the highlights, and weigh-ups looked five to seven cents per pound higher than the week before, said Jaeger.