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Published January 29, 2013, 02:06 PM

End of an era?

Minot, N.D., livestock auction business set to close, but a new owner could be a possibility.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Northern Livestock Auction in Minot, N.D., is closing, but the business could reopen under different ownership at a new location in the Minot area, a co-owner of the company says.

“I can’t tell you much,” says Roger Sundsbak, who has owned the business with George Bitz for 11 years. “It’s possible. But I just don’t know if it (new ownership) will happen.”

Northern Livestock held its final weekly auction on Jan. 29 and holds its going-out-of-business sale, at which gates and other equipment will be sold, on Feb. 5.

Sundsbak says one party, whom he declines to identify, is interested in buying the business and reestablishing it at a different location, if financing can be arranged.

Ideally, the business would be reestablished quickly, so former customers of Northern Livestock don’t start to patronize other regional livestock auctions, Sundsbak says.

Northern Livestock is the only livestock auction company in Minot, which, with a population of 41,000, is northwest North Dakota’s largest city. Livestock producers who did business at Northern Livestock will need to transport their animals as many as 100 additional miles to other livestock auction yards.

Northern Livestock has handled 58,000 to 62,000 animals — primarily cattle, as well as some horses — annually in recent years.

As reported in an Agweek cover story on Nov. 12, Northern Livestock Auction has operated on an eight-acre site owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. But the railroad plans to build new tracks on the site to service growing demand from western North Dakota oil fields. Northern Livestock Auction has until March 15 to remove its property.

Northern Livestock Auction operates at 24 27th St., on a hill overlooking the North Dakota State Fairgrounds.

The cost of reestablishing Northern Livestock at a new location would be too high for Bitz and himself, given their ages, Sundsbak says. Bitz is 78, Sundsbak 65.

Northern Livestock had six full-time employees. It employed as many as many as 34 people part time on sales days.

Most of the employees lost their jobs after the final weekly sale on Jan. 29. A few employees will remain on staff until March 15, the deadline for Northern Livestock to remove its property.

Sundsbak says he has received several job offers, but is uncertain what he will end up doing.

“I want to stay busy, though,” he says. “I like being around livestock. I like being around people.”

Sundsbak says he appreciates the efforts of employees and the support of people who did business with Northern Livestock.

“And I couldn’t have had a better partner than George Bitz,” Sundsbak says.

Bitz was the auctioneer at the Minot business when he and Sundsbak bought it. Bitz continued in that role after the purchase. Sundsbak had been a part-time employee of Northern Livestock and a former cattle producer.

Now, with the business about to close, “It’s kind of sad. I’ve met so many good people,” Sundsbak says. “It’s been quite a ride.”