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It's a natural fit

Cattleman brings a lifetime of experience to auction job

Staff writer

It’s a natural fit for rural Marion resident Scott Miesse, being the manager of Herington Livestock Market.

The Marion High School graduate has been on a farm all of his life, and continues the tradition of the family farm with his father, J.B. Miesse.

Miesse followed in his father’s footsteps from the farm to the livestock auction business. J.B. had worked at the auction barn from 1961 to 1991.

“He did just about everything but being the auctioneer,” Scott Miesse said.

Before being hired in January as the manager of the auction barn north of Herington, Miesse had worked every Wednesday at that same barn for 20 years, assisting in the auctioning business.

He left the auction barn, pursued other interests, but then returned as manager — overseeing the auction business (soliciting cattle and hogs to be sold, and maintaining alleys in preparation for the next sale), and its 28 employees.

A typical week will see about 900 head of cattle — some weeks as many as 1,250.

“Right now is the peak time when cattle are coming off grass,” Miesse said, and the upswing of the market doesn’t hurt.

Some hogs are sold through the Herington barn but, Miesse said, most are taken directly to packing plants, eliminating the auctioneer.

Buyers come from around the area and out-of-state (Nebraska, Iowa). Most buyers purchase feeder cattle for farmers, many in the area.

Sellers come from McPherson to Junction City to Emporia to Burns, Miesse said.

Miesse said farmers typically want 300- to 600-pound cattle. When cattle weigh 600 to 950 pounds, they often are purchased by feedlot owners.

Times have changed in the cattle auction business with not only supply and demand controlling prices but the Futures Board also influencing the price of beef.

“Forty years ago, farmers took cattle to market based on supply and demand. Today, we do by the board,” Miesse said.

Another economic shift is seeing fewer father-son farming operations and more corporate businesses. It’s no longer feasible for one farming operation to support more than one family. Often, a small to medium-size farm cannot even support one family.

“Children go away to school and they don’t come back,” Miesse said. “When the father retires, usually much later than the traditional retirement age, there’s no one to take over.”

The family farm then is added to the acreage of a larger farm, making larger farms larger and the family farms more obsolete.

One major change in the livestock auction business has been video auctions.

That’s where buyers can have their livestock videotaped through an Internet site and buyers can purchase via telephone.

For farmers like Miesse, he doesn’t care much for that approach.

“I want to see the cattle ‘in-person.’ You can’t see the entire livestock like in an auction ring,” he said. “Besides, it’s about the only way to get a bunch of farmers together.”

Last modified Aug. 27, 2008

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