Valentine Livestock Auction celebrates reaching milestone

Ranchers and investors around Valentine reached a milestone recently. A group of stockholders who resurrected Valentine Livestock Auction in 1992 were able to burn the mortgage on their new sale barn facility opened in 2003.

This action put an exclamation point at the end of a statement made 20 years ago by local residents when they re-opened the sale barn after it had been closed. Valentine Livestock is important not only to ranchers and cattlemen for selling and buying cattle, but to the city of Valentine, too.

Lawrence Turner of Sparks, who served as the stockholders’ first president 20 years ago and now serves again as president, says that it is almost unbelievable what the group of investors and loyal employees of the barn have accomplished together.

At a glance

Valentine Livestock Auction was purchased by a group in 1992.

Stockholders built a new sale barn in 2003.

The sale barn has grown to be one of the top two or three barns in the state.

“When we started, our skeptics said it would never work,” Turner says. “To have the facilities and corrals that we have and to have it all paid for — I guess we proved them wrong.”

Today, a typical fall or winter feeder calf sale might bring a run of more than 5,000 head of cattle through the market. Selling more than 100,000 head annually, Valentine Livestock is consistently ranked as one of the top two or three busiest sale barns in the state. Before the barn closed and was purchased by stockholders two decades ago, it was selling around 50,000 head a year, so business has doubled.

“Back then, we just felt that we needed a barn in Valentine, and maybe the only way for that to happen was for a group of us to own it ourselves,” Turner says. Twenty-nine stockholders, ranchers, business owners and residents in the area purchased the barn and offered vision for the market’s future.

Second generation

Now, Turner says that there are still 26 stockholders, with some second-generation families holding shares in the venture. The oldest stockholder is Harvey Gunnink, who ranched with his son near Crookston, served as the first stockholders’ secretary and has been one of the largest consignors and buyers at the barn for many years.

Greg Arndt has managed the sale barn almost from the beginning, and most of the barn’s employees have been there the entire time. “A lot of the credit for our success has to go to Greg and our employees,” says Corky Worth, a stockholder and Springview rancher. “Many of the employees have been there from day one. When you have good help, it makes you successful.”

An executive board consisting of six stockholders is elected each year at an annual stockholder meeting, usually held in late summer. “We all get along pretty well,” Turner says. “That’s how it goes when things are successful and we don’t have many problems.”

“I enjoy being involved in the cattle business and the merchandising business,” says Arndt. “Around here, it is what we do. We raise cattle. So, we offer a merchandising opportunity for whatever ranchers have to sell.” According to Arndt, Valentine Livestock is important because it provides those opportunities to market much of the agricultural production of the region.

Turner says that it is no accident that cattle come in from more than 200 miles away. “Our employees do a great job of sorting cattle, and that brings buyers back,” he says. “And the quality of cattle that we have is very high.”

Turner says the Valentine market guarantees area ranchers a place close to home to market cattle “at top dollar.” He says, “It’s also a huge success for the community and city of Valentine. We employ people, and on sale day, we bring people to town.”

For more information on Valentine Livestock Auction, visit online at



SECRET TO SUCCESS: Valentine Livestock Auction was resurrected by a group of ranchers, business owners and area families, including these stockholders who gathered on sale day last summer for this photo. Harvey Gunnink is seated (front row middle); Lawrence Turner and Corky Worth are standing in the back row (second and third from the right, respectively).

This article published in the February, 2012 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.