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Pipestone Livestock Auction Market

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

The old adage can apply to many things about modern agriculture. While technologies and management practices are changing many things about how livestock are raised, successful farms and businesses are still built on relationships and a commitment to animal care.

That focus on customer service and animal care has been the foundation for four generations of the Schneider family of Pipestone, Minnesota. Family members have been involved in raising, buying and selling cattle in southwest Minnesota and beyond for decades.

Ernest Schneider fed fat cattle in the Pipestone area for many years, and his son Ed began milking cows and raising dairy heifers. In the 1980s, Ed began exporting dairy heifers to international markets like Indonesia and China.

Heifers that weren’t exported were sold at the Pipestone Livestock Auction Market, which at the time was a small sale barn similar to ones in many other rural communities. Ed’s son, Brian, worked part-time at the sale barn that was owned by a relative. In the late 1980s, Brian bought the auction market business along with his brother. Sam Schneider, Brian’s son and the fourth generation of Schneiders involved in livestock markets, grew up with his siblings Nick, Jake and Libby helping at the business and joined full time in 2012.

The sale of dairy heifers to both export and U.S. buyers helped spur the growth of the sale barn.

“The Pipestone dairy sale grew to be one of the largest two or three sales in the country,” said Dr. Jay Bobb, veterinarian at Pipestone Veterinary Services, who now provides services to the auction market.

Pipestone Livestock Auction Market has several scheduled sales each month. Every Tuesday is a slaughter hogs and slaughter cattle auction, which can see from 300 to 1000 cattle and 300 to 700 pigs each week, depending on the time of year. Feeder cattle are sold twice a month, with sale numbers ranging from 500 to 1500 animals. Sheep and goat auctions are held twice a month, with 300 to 700 animals sold at each sale.

A dairy sale is held the third Thursday of each month. The sale itself is not as large as it once was, but Pipestone Livestock Auction Market also works with dairies across the country to source top quality heifers. The family also runs Schneider Dairy Cattle, a separate business that raises dairy heifers sold to customers in multiple states.

“We’ve been able to build a strong network of buyers and sellers with relationships that go back decades,” said Sam. “We try to treat customers like we would want to be treated and are fortunate to work with really good farmers and customers that continue to come back.”

The relationship between Pipestone Livestock Auction Market and Pipestone Veterinary Services also goes back several decades.

“Dr. Kennedy worked with Ed when he began exporting dairy heifers and the partnership between the sale barn and the clinic really blossomed,” said Dr. Bobb.

Dr. Kennedy worked with the Schneiders to make sure that dairy heifers met all the health requirements for export markets and completed appropriate regulatory and health paperwork needed for export or sales across state lines.

Dr. Bobb and vets from Pipestone Veterinary Services continue to attend every sale at the barn and provide veterinary services, including pregnancy checks, Tuberculosis testing, blood testing, other required health assessments and paperwork, and any other veterinary care.

Each state has different requirements for cattle that are sold and transported into it, so veterinarians have to know where the cattle are going and make sure the right tests and paperwork are in place before they are shipped.

“It has been a great relationship with the Pipestone vets. I remember Dr. Kennedy doing the work when I was growing up and now Dr. Bobb does a great job,” said Sam. “I can only imagine how many tens of thousands of cows that the vets have preg checked and worked with us.”

Dr. Bobb also provides vaccinations or other veterinary services for customers who purchase feeder cattle at the sale.

“Many feedlots or other customers prefer to have the vaccinations done before the cattle leave the sale barn,” said Dr. Bobb. “We can work the cattle in the heated facilities here to save time for the buyers and reduce stress on the animals.”

The family has worked to improve the auction facilities over the years. It features more than 100 covered pens to protect livestock from weather conditions year-round.

“We’ve worked to build a facility that is safe for both the animals and the people who work with them,” said Sam. “Anytime you move or change an animal’s surroundings, it is stressful for them, so our goal is to move them as calmly as we can and treat them with respect and care.”

Some animals arrive at the Pipestone Livestock Auction Market the day of their sale, while others are delivered earlier to complete testing or other needs.

“We have room for 4,000 to 5,000 head on site and can work with producers to take cattle a few days or a week ahead of the sale,” said Sam. “Whatever the customer wants to do, we will do our best to make it happen.”

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