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Published November 16, 2010, 12:51 PM

South Americans visit Mitchell Livestock

The Mitchell Livestock Auction played host Monday to a contingent of South American farmers, ranchers and businesspeople who are touring the Midwest to learn more about America’s cattle industry. The 33 visitors from Argentina and Uruguay arrived Sunday in Omaha, Neb., and stopped at the Mitchell Livestock Auction on Monday morning to tour the advanced cattle handling facility on the premises.

By: Ross Dolan,

The Mitchell Livestock Auction played host Monday to a contingent of South American farmers, ranchers and businesspeople who are touring the Midwest to learn more about America’s cattle industry.

The 33 visitors from Argentina and Uruguay arrived Sunday in Omaha, Neb., and stopped at the Mitchell Livestock Auction on Monday morning to tour the advanced cattle handling facility on the premises.

The tour was accompanied by Alfredo DiCostanzo, professor of beef cattle nutrition and management at the University of Minnesota. Translation duties were handled by former student Nicolas DiLorenzo, now a member of the faculty of the University of Florida.

The tour is slated to make about 15 Midwest stops, but only two in South Dakota: one at the Mitchell Livestock Auction and the other at Redstone Feeders, in De Smet.

“Their main interest is that they want to understand how the United States does feedlot management and nutrition facilities,” DiConstanzo said. “Their (feedlot) industry is, in a sense, just beginning.”

Argentinean beef is considered good quality, DiCostanzo said, “but they’ve discovered that if you grain-feed beef, it’s even better, so they’re moving in that direction.” A more developed cattle industry will also give Argentina a stronger market for its corn crops, he explained.

Of special interest to the visitors was the $75,000 hydraulically operated squeeze-chute facility installed in August at the Mitchell Livestock Auction by Parkston veterinarian Dave Barz, owner of Northwest Vet Supply, to maximize both human and animal safety.

Dennis Mottl, representative for Dubas Cattle Company of Fullerton, Neb., dealer for “The Silencer,” an ultra-quiet cattle handling system, said it moves cattle quietly, swiftly and with less human involvement.

“We want to avoid getting those cattle worked up and nervous,” Mottl said. “We don’t want to get them into ‘flight mode’ except where it might help us to get them to go where we want them to go.”

The system moves animals in a humane manner, without “kicking, hollering and screaming,” he said. “We’ve got to eliminate that because it’s not efficient, it’s not kind and it’s dangerous.”

Barz, the in-house vet for Mitchell Livestock, said the system allows him to treat a large number of animals both quickly and efficiently. Barz said the cooperative venture is working well for both Mitchell Livestock Auction and himself.

“We’re trying to keep the person pushing or moving the livestock out of harm’s way,” he said. “The automatic gates in the system keep animals moving forward without risking your own well-being to do so.” Barz said it’s not uncommon for handlers to be knocked down or trampled by animals in chute areas.

“This is all automatic and it works pretty well,” he said. “It’s easier on the animal, the person doing the work, plus it takes less time.”

While the South Americans were fascinated by the cattle handling system, they appeared equally interested in the South Dakota cattle auction system.

DiConstanzo said in South America it’s not uncommon for producers to pay at least 9 percent commission — 4.5 percent on the sale of an animal and 4.5 percent on its purchase. Commissions in South Dakota typically run around 1 to 2 percent.

“They were so surprised that the salebarn makes a very tiny commission off the sale of cattle here,” DiConstanzo said. A commission for a fat steer runs more than $60 in South America, but only $10 to $15 here, he said.

The visitors jokingly asked Edwards if, given the better commissions, he is going to open a salebarn in Argentina.

DiConstanzo said the South Americans were also amazed that cattle auctions must be bonded here. Argentine producers who are stuck with bad checks for cattle sales often have few ways to collect their money, he said.

DiCostanzo said that one state, fearing the competition the South Americans will eventually present, declined to be included in the tours of the cattle-handling facilities.

The attitude, while understandable, is short-sighted, believes DiConstanzo, who said it makes no difference where the South Americans go to become educated on new cattle handling techniques.

“They will be investing (in cattle feeding) in any case,” he said.

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