JUNCTION CITY, Ore. — Chloe Hess came to the auction yard with her parents back when she was a kid. Then she worked at the yard while a student at Oregon State University. And now she and her husband, Leon Birky, own the Eugene Livestock Auction, having purchased it in 2018.
“Auctions can almost be an addiction,” said Hess who is now 32. “We just like auctions.”
Birky also came to the auction with his parents. He and Hess were drawn to the cattle, sheep, horses, goats, pigs, chickens and rabbits that went through the auction.
When working at the yard during her college years, Hess met Birky, who was working as a ringman. They spent many hours at the auction while dating and can now be found at the yard full-time. Hess works in the office while Birky hauls livestock to the yard, organizes animals in the back pens and directs animals through the ring.
“We want to share this lifestyle with our kids,” said Hess. “It’s fun to see our kids start to hang around here like we did.”
She and Birky have four children — Hannah, 8, Whitney, 6, Kristin, 5, and Wade, 2.
The Eugene Livestock Auction is in its 62nd year of operation. Despite its Eugene name, the yard has a Junction City address and is just off Highway 99.
The business had multiple owners before Bruce Anderson and Kate Garvey owned it from 1995 to 2018, when they sold it to Birky and Hess.
“They’re young and exuberant like I was when I bought it,” Anderson said. “They grew up here, they have a sense of the work ethic that is needed to make the business run. As long as there is a livestock industry, the auction yard needs to be there.”
The Eugene Livestock Auction is the only livestock auction remaining in Western Oregon between Junction City and the state’s southwestern border.
A sale is held every Saturday beginning at 10:30 a.m. A horse sale is held at 5 p.m. on the second Friday of each month. Online bidding is available for both the Saturday and Friday auctions.
“There’s been a definite increase in the number of sheep and goats at the auction,” said Hess, adding there have been Saturday sales with 500 sheep and 150 goats. “Also more chickens and rabbits. Cattle numbers have increased some.
“We have more buyers and buyers from farther away,” she added. “The online bidding is a convenience for buyers.”
When Hess and Birky aren’t busy at the auction yard, they’re home looking after their own commercial herd of black Angus cows, a couple heifers that their kids have bottle fed and a small flock of sheep.
“I’ve always liked livestock, especially cattle,” Hess said. “We want to share the lifestyle with our kids and pass it on.”
When it is time to vaccinate, tag ear and castrate the animals at home, Hess and Birky get their kids involved as much as they can at their ages.
“Agriculture is part of our daily life,” Hess said. “I don’t think people realize how many things in our daily lives come from animals.
“I think agriculture is kind of under attack, but I feel like we’re resilient enough to stand our ground and show people we have a product that is worth keeping around and worth fighting for,” she added.