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Marsha Schlecht for 20 years has been the office manager for Napoleon (N.D.) Livestock Inc. Photo taken Jan. 15, 2020, at Napoleon, N.D. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)

Sale barn keeps office manager on her toes

NAPOLEON, N.D. — Marsha Schlecht has been the office manager for the Napoleon Livestock Inc., for nearly 20 years. In that capacity, she does everything but cry auctions.

"I have payroll, pay the bills, make sure the books balance, do quarterly reports — pretty much whatever there is to do. I've done everything but (cry an) auction, let's put it that way," she says, noting she's loaded and unloaded cattle.

Schlecht, 55, drives 40 miles to work from Streeter, N.D., where she lives on the farm she grew up on. One son, Keith, and his wife, Melissa, work on a nearby farm and run cattle. An older son, Cory, lives in Fargo.

Schlecht graduated high school in 1982. She took a year of business and computer courses at Williston, but then got married. She took a bank teller job in 1986, and then in 2000 started the sale barn job.

In the Napoleon area, farmers often buy yearling calves as "pasture cattle," rather than raising their own. Some go to feedlots in other states. Some feed them for others. They also sell "weigh-up cows" — animals that are sold by the pound and are destined to Long Prairie, Minn., or some slaughter plant.

Over the years, the buyers have changed. In 2009, the company opened a new sale barn facility. People have bigger herds. Napoleon Livestock is "comfortable" if sales are 5,000 head. In the summer, they are every second week, while in the winter they're 3,000 to 5,000-head sales every Thursday, in addition to monthly cow sales.

One of Schlecht's important jobs is collecting the money.

The federal Packers and Stockyards Act requires that all of the money from cattle purchasers must be collected within a week of a transaction. "The hard part of the cattle business is, we write all of the checks the day of the sale, but the buyers don't pay the same day as the sale. They'll buy from someone from Kansas, Nebraska, or local ranchers. They have 24 hours to put the check in the mail."

If Schlecht doesn't get checks in a timely manner, she has to call the buyers. "Some weeks it's really good, some weeks I just want to pull my hair out," Schlecht says, with a chuckle.