Cattlemen's Livestock Commission: A customer-oriented business
For nearly a quarter of a century, Charles and Laurie Mallicote have worked to make Cattlemen’s Livestock Commission Co. a successful business through a special focus on the customer.
“We try just as hard for the person who has one as the person who has 100. We appreciate them all,” Charles said. “With a dairy and ranch myself, I know what other people are going through. I try to relate that to everybody who’s buying and selling cattle.”
They purchased the business at 1354 Clement Rd. in 1991. They gave the building a face lift a few years ago. More modifications are coming, such as more covered pens outside. Before they bought the auction barn, the Mallicotes ran a dairy and beef cattle ranch, which they still maintain.
“I thought I’d like to get into it. My dad was an auctioneer,” Charles said. “It’s in my blood, I guess.”
“It’s in his blood, all right,” Laurie added. “He loves to go to sale barns.”
It is very much a family business. Their second oldest son, Clay, is the office manager. Their daughter wrote tickets out before she had children.
“Most of our boys run the farm, but when we need them, they’re Johnny on the spot,” Charles said.
“Our whole family, that’s all we do is agriculture,” Laurie added.
One of their five sons, Grant, has a separate business in Bodyguard Bumpers, which got its start after they hit a cow.
Charles wasn’t sure what to expect when he took over, and while running a business is not all fun, he has enjoyed meeting and working with other cattlemen.
“People trust you with their cattle. That’s their livelihood. I appreciate their trust,” he said. “I try to present them to buyers where they’ll bring best dollar. That’s my talent – marketing.”
Both said their favorite part of the business is a satisfied customer.
“It’s fun now to see the look on their face when they get a check and see the $1,000 sale,” Laurie said. “A lot of the older ranchers will come get their checks, and they’ll say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this.’”
Prices are high due to a shortage of cattle, Charles said. Cattlemen’s ran about 30,000 head across its auction floor when the Mallicotes first purchased it. As they built the business’ reputation, that number increased until it hit a high of 141,000. By last year, that number had dropped to 60,000. Recent droughts have forced older ranchers out of business, and few have stepped up to replace them, Charles said.
“There are not a lot of big ranchers doing it full time,” he said.
At one point, they had enough business to open up sales on Thursday as well as Saturday, but they have since gone back to only Saturday auctions. Even so, there is almost always someone at the office. There is quite a bit to do aside from the auctions themselves – reports, collecting and transporting cattle, etc.
Buyers and sellers come from a roughly 100-mile radius for auctions at Cattlemen’s Livestock Commission, some despite the fact there is an auction barn closer in many cases.
“A lot of it is relationships. Charles is honest, and they know it,” Laurie said. “People are very particular with how they want their cattle marketed.”
Sales start at 11 a.m. and run until they are finished. The auction starts with sheep and goats, then cows, then calves. If people get hungry, the barn also has a home-style café run by Charlene Finch.
“We try to make everybody feel at home and enjoy themselves,” Laurie said. “You ask the ranchers what their favorite part is, they’d probably say the free ice cream. We have a soft-serve machine. That thing gets a workout on Saturday.”
Their focus on the customer includes some unusual services. Charles spends a lot of his time travelling in the area to inspect cattle on site to help ranchers figure out what they might bring at market.
“Charles knows cattle. He knows what markets well,” Laurie said. “He’s got a love for cattle. Anybody that knows him knows that.”
At the sale barn, similar cattle are often grouped together. Many auction barns simply run them through one by one, but Charles said buyers who want several head would rather buy several at once and usually pay more than when purchasing them one at a time.
“We arrange hauling for people who need cattle hauled up here,” he said.
A few times a year, the barn holds replacement sales, as well as premium calf sales. Cattlemen’s Livestock Commission is also the site for the Chamber of Commerce’s All Breed Bull and Replacement Heifer Sale, just one of the things the company does to support the local community. The Mallicotes purchase animals at the Junior Livestock Show and participate in 4-H and FFA events, as well as local rodeos.
“When someone asks us to help out, we’re more than happy to if we can,” Charles said.
“Ranchers are using the internet more,” Laurie said. “That’s how they keep up with everything.”