The unbridled success and explosive growth of the United States can be directly tied to two major cultural shifts – the industrial revolution and the post-WWII boom generation of the late 1940s. As those two shifts affected the American population, both movements also brought about rapid change in the way industries were able to conduct business. The livestock – specifically cattle industry – was not immune to those changes.
The industrial revolution brought about quicker, safer and cheaper methods of raising and processing livestock. While the vast majority of ranchers still relied on the cattle drive to get their stock to transportation hubs, once there producers were able to take advantage of the newly laid railroads and waterway shipping that exploded across America’s Heartland and Great Plains. Auction houses also sprang up rapidly in cities like Chicago, Omaha, and Kansas City just to name a few. These terminal markets were some of the first to establish a daily trade prices and became to powerhouses for bringing together producers and packers.
Skipping ahead to the 1940s, the livestock industry again saw a boom. With exploding U.S. populations came a spike in demand and production as America entered one of its greatest times of prosperity the world had ever seen. This rapid increase in demand lead the auctions houses to upgrade and often moved to newer, larger packing facilities away from the stockyards of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The result was again a shift from larger terminal markets to local auctions where the auction houses themselves worked closely with their surrounding producers.
In recent years, a third evolution in the livestock industry has begun to take shape. Just as auctions moved from large terminal markets to smaller community auctions, livestock producers are personalizing the process further still thanks to technology. Remote auctions are now very common where buyers from all over the world can tune in to live auctions. As consumers and processors both are becoming increasingly concerned about conditions in which the animals are raised, businesses have sprung up that will visit the produce to actually show animals grazing – removing the need to even present stock at the auction house itself.
Technology has also opened the market wide for private treaty sales between buyers and sellers on a large scale. While private treaty was once limited by distance, remote auctions and online marketplaces like Cattle-Exchange.com and CattleRange.com now collect listings and connect buyers and sellers from all corners of the country. Not only does this open up producers to much larger markets, it also gives them the ability to create unique terms for each sale if they so wish.
The American livestock and auction industry has undergone massive charge in a short history of around 200 years. The real question isn’t what the next big advancement will be, but how soon we can expect to see it!