Auction mart ‘showlist’ benefits all parties

Storm-stayed cattle waited days for shipping back in December


Putting your cattle on a ‘showlist’ is proving to be a popular and productive marketing tool.

Local auctioneer Allan Munroe, who owns and runs the Killarney Auction Mart just south of town, says that his decision last year to include the new system on auction days has provided a win-win-win situation for all parties concerned.

“It’s good for the buyers, it’s good for the sellers, and it’s good for the cattle,” said Munroe during this Monday’s busy cattle auction day. “It does well for everyone. We prepare the showlist in advance, and it’s a way we have got some of the bigger farmers to come here. We send the sheet to all the buyers in Manitoba, so they know what we have coming in. Then they can go ahead and sort out their plans. Some of them even book transport in advance.”

The showlist marketing idea originally came out of Ste. Rose a few years ago, and since then a number of other auction marts picked up on it, he said.

It involves cattle producers bringing in their specified cattle on Sunday – the day before the auction – and creating ‘packages’ of cattle in advance.

The cattle are weighed on the Sunday, before being moved to another area and put on evening water and feed, which reduces shrinkage losses overnight for the producers, and makes the cows happy.

Information on the animal’s health protocol – such as history of vaccinations or parasite treatments – is added to the showlist where applicable.

These bigger groups of cattle, selected by a sharp-eyed Munroe, pave the way for a faster, more efficient sale the following day, and improved ease in filling trailers or liners for the buyers, who are not forced to do their buying in ones and twos.

“There’s a little extra charge to get on the showlist, because it takes a little more work to get it ready,” said Munroe. “But it works. People are getting to know about it. At 9 a.m. the regular cows and bulls go through, and once we are done, we go on to the showlist, which we hand out to everyone. We have five sellers on our list today, with a variety of black, red, and exotic cattle – that’s taller, framier breeds, such as Simmentals and Continental breeds – coming into the ring in groups of seven to 26.”

One area seller said he liked the new system, partly because it was a speedier way to sell his prepared ‘packages’ of black cattle. But he added that cross-border conditions may have softened the market somewhat here in Killarney, although prices were decent.

“It’s like tearing off a Band-Aid,” he said. “It’s over with fast. But I think the prices could have been a little better if it wasn’t for the actions recently of the U.S. president. It’s making all the markets drop, worldwide. I got $1.62 today for a 750-pound steer; I think that’ s okay. I would say the mood here today is optimistic.”

This Monday’s market was packed for the second week running, with 1,119 head of cattle moving through the ring, according to Munroe. In fact, the sales list filled last Tuesday, almost a week before the scheduled sale date.

The January 23 market saw an impressive 1,130 head go under the hammer.

But busy is the way Munroe likes it – even though it sometimes means that cattle end up spending their nights camped out at the mart. And truckers can also get waylaid in town along with the bovines, it seems.

“What’s bringing in all the cattle? The weather we had in December is definitely part of it,” he said. “After the December 5 blizzard,, we had around 750 head of cattle storm-stayed here. They usually leave on the Monday night, and they were here until Thursday. It made a lot of work. But we also had two truckers storm-stayed – one from Belmont and one from Moosomin, Saskatchewan – and they helped me to feed and water, and bring the smaller cattle into the barn, because they just couldn’t take that wind. It was a challenging few days. We were using a garden hose for the water, and forking a lot of hay.”

Munroe himself had trouble getting in and out of the mart during the three-day blizzard.

“I was using a snowmobile or a tractor to commute from my home two miles north,” he said. “ I could hardly see in front of my face.”

Farmers were forced to keep their cattle at home through the New Year, he added, and getting feed to their animals was often hard work in the extreme weather conditions.

Getting cattle out of the yards for shipping to market proved impossible for some producers, who just had to sit tight and wait for the situation to get easier. And eventually it did, along with the livestock values.

“The prices went up in January, and the market got busy,” he said. “Steers went up five cents a pound since December, and heifers close to ten cents. There was a backlog of cattle, and some that would normally come here in March are coming in now. Cattle producers have been fighting the snow, and the weather, and they’re just tired. And the market is positive. Every seat on the buyers’ desk has been full.”

For the popular auctioneer-turned-market owner, it’s all part of the plan.

“It’s a dream,” said Munroe. “Life is good. This is what I do, and I’m happy.”

‘SHOWLIST’ CATTLE PACK A PEN – This package of 20 ‘showlist’ red cattle (hauled in by producer Stan Enns) filled the ring on Monday, January 30, during the Killarney Auction Mart sale day. Market owner and auctioneer Allan Munroe introduced the showlist option last year, as a way to help promote faster sales, simplify shipping, and to lure in more business from both farmers and buyers. It seems to have worked – the auction days have been filled to livestock capacity in recent weeks, and prices remain good.