The Eugene Livestock Auction in Junction City, Ore., narrowly escaped demolition and now has a new owner intent on keeping the business operating.
After 23 years of running the auction, former owner Bruce Anderson wanted to sell the business, but the first three prospective buyers who approached him about the auction yard wanted to convert it to another use, he said.
Anderson said his wife, Kate, who helped run the business, balked at the prospect of shutting it down, so they were both relieved when an employee, Leon Birky, offered to buy the company.
Birky and his wife, Chloe, closed on the sale in mid-August. The price was not disclosed, but county records show the 4-acre property worth more than $1.1 million in real market value.
“They actually did the industry a favor,” said Anderson. “When they heard it was going to be knocked down, they wanted to keep it going.”
Only eight livestock auction yards remain in Oregon after many shut down due to the high cost of compliance with confined animal feeding operation regulations, said Jerome Rosa, executive director of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.
Livestock auctions must obtain a CAFO permit despite only having animals at the facility once a week, and they often don’t qualify for grants, making for a “very expensive situation,” Rosa said.
Smaller livestock producers tend to rely on auctions to sell their cattle, which makes having a nearby option important because it’s tough for them to drive for hours to a more distant location, he said.
“It’s much more convenient for them to have a local yard to go to,” Rosa said.
Leon Birky, the new owner, said he saw the auction yard as a good investment because it’s a strong local market for feeder cattle, sheep and goats and wanted to keep it as a sales outlet for local livestock producers.
“I’ve been around cattle and livestock most of my life,” said Birky, who worked as a ringman and part-time auctioneer at the facility before buying it.
Birky said the auction yard will continue to be run with honesty and integrity to keep people coming back, and the facility will continue to house a restaurant with “good down-home cooking.”
The couple plans to host an “open house” and feeder sale at the site on Sept. 8.
Aside from rebuilding some pens, fixing some gates and other improvements, the Birkys say they don’t plan on any major changes to the auction yard.
“We want to keep it the same as people are used to,” Chloe Birky said. “I don’t think livestock people really like a lot of change.”