After more than 20 years, Tom and Lisa Frey have sold the Creston Livestock Auction during a packed public auction Wednesday.
The Creston Livestock Auction and Sale Barn, 201 N. Cherry St. was sold to the winning bidders – Cody Frey, the Frey’s son, and Curt and Heather Sporleder – for $410,000.
The Sporleder, who own the Unionville Auction Market in Unionville, Missouri, purchased their business in 1999 around the same time the Frey family bought the Creston Livestock Auction.
For the Sporleder family, the auction market business in Unionville has been a family affair. Curt and Heather run the business together. Son Joel, who is in school at North Central Missouri College in Trenton, still drives the 60 miles to help out when he can. Their 15-year-old daughter Carsen, a high school sophomore, does whatever needs to be done. Curt said her least favorite task is picking up the trash.
Curt is originally from Glidden and graduated from Iowa State University in 1991. He worked for Land O’ Lakes as a livestock production specialist until purchasing the Unionville market.
Curt met Tom through a need for an auctioneer in Missouri. He had heard Tom on the radio and came to Creston to watch him in action. He then hired Tom as an auctioneer, and Tom continued to auction at Unionville until just a few years ago.
“Tom is first-class all the way; one of the best auctioneers in the whole country,” Curt said.
Livestock sales have been Cody’s life. He started in the business as a kid working on sale days to yard manager to 50% owner. He said it’s the only thing he knows because it’s the only thing he’s ever done.
When his parents decided to step back from the livestock part of the family business, he saw a good opportunity in purchasing the sale barn. He said it has been a large part of his life that he didn’t want to let go.
“It was now or never,” he said.
Cody said he is glad to be sharing this experience with the Sporleders who bring valuable experience and knowledge.
Curt said, “The Frey family has done an excellent job as far as building that market into what it is today. Cody and I had talked and we decided we’d be interested in buying it.”
Curt said the Sporleders will be in Creston a lot. They’ll be here on sale days and will interact with customers just as Cody will. Curt said they are exited to be working with a community like Creston that really supports its livestock auction and serving its needs.
“We are just a phone call away,” Curt said.
Even with the support of Sporleder and his successful auction business in Missouri, Cody wasn’t sure they would walk away the owners.
Tom Frey, auctioneer and previous owner, said there were 10 to 12 serious bidders and around 300 in attendance.
Tom and Leisa Frey moved their family to Creston from Colorado to fulfill Tom’s lifelong dream to own his own auction business — Creston Livestock Auctions — in 1999, Tom running the auction side of the business and Leisa running the office.
Over the years, their children became involved as well, Brandon Frey became an auctioneer and Cody took on the position of yard manager. Daughter Brianna worked in the office on sale days. Casey helped doing general work that needed to be done until he moved away a few years ago. Younger brothers, Nate,TJ and Corey didn’t spend as much time at the sale barn.
In Colorado, Tom had been working in the auction business. He developed a love for auctions at a young age — going to auctions to buy and sell livestock for the family farm in Nebraska.
Cody was a freshman when the family moved to Creston. He worked at the sale barn on sale days for a year or so and then went to work for the Mostek family at Farm and Home.
Being from a farm family, Cody was still involved with livestock. He worked on the farm, which ran 200 to 250 cattle and showed steers in 4-H.
After high school, Cody went to Northwest Missouri State University but returned to Creston Livestock Auctions to work in about 2008. He became the yard manager around 2011.
Cody said, running Creston Livestock Auctions takes more than herding cattle in and out of the ring. As yard manager, Cody took care of everything “behind the door” — all the things a casual observer doesn’t see that make the auction run smoothly – hiring the help, getting everything ready for the livestock and moving the livestock in and out of the pens on sale day.
Frey said there’s no secret method to getting everything to work the way it’s supposed to. It’s about making sure the pens are clean and in good shape, there is bedding for the cattle, and that the water works. He also said the right help is invaluable.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the local and out of town help on sale days,” Cody said.
On a sale day, there might be 20 to 25 workers as opposed to the three to five on a non-sale day.
On non-sale days, there is maintenance work to be done, as well as, cleaning up the pens, loading out any remaining livestock from a previous auction and receiving livestock for the next one. Customer relations through phone calls and farm visits keep staff busy too.
Sale days start between 5 and 6 a.m. to move livestock to the right pens for the sale and may not end until the next morning as semi-tractor trailers arrive all night to pick up livestock to take them to their new owners.
Cody said drivers like to load animals during the night because they are often required to show up with the livestock at daylight.
In between the early morning and the late night, is the auction itself. Livestock is moved through the process, into the ring and out again once sold. Customers come and go, checking out the inventory, bidding and buying in the arena and grabbing a bite to eat plus some chitchat with other customers and friends in the cafe.
Changes through the years
A few things have changed in the past 20 years in the auction business.
Cody spoke of the physical changes to modernize the sale barn. The wooden fences to create pens have been replaced with steel pipe, and more of the pens have concrete floors now. There are hydraulic doors into the auction ring.
Tom described how the internet now plays a part in auctions.
“For weekly auctions, we have 500 to 1,000 over the internet,” Tom said.
Customers can watch the auctions live, bid on items and buy them through www.lmaauctions.com.
Although Tom and Cody said there are fewer family farmers and more corporate ones, one thing that hasn’t changed is the people involved in auctions.
“People make the auction,” Tom said. “Owning a market, you get to build a more in-depth relationship. They are trusting you with their livelihood.”
After the sale
Cody said not much will change around the sale barn with the change in ownership. He said his father ran a successful business, so most things will stay the same.
Cody will manage the day-to-day operations with Sporleder, who will still be running his Unionville auctions, coming to Creston for sale days. Both Cody and Sporleder will work with farmers, both buyers and sellers.
One thing that definitely won’t change is the appreciation for auctions as an important part of life in a small community.
Both father and son spoke of auctions as the only way to truly know what your livestock is worth.
“Livestock auction is the last form of true price discovery,” Tom said.
Cody said, “It’s the only place to find out what cattle are worth that day.”
Tom also talked about how the auction business benefits the town. Farmers who come into town for an auction generally also stop by some stores to pick up supplies and get a meal at one of the restaurants in town.
A change that will be made, however, is the auctioneer. With Tom retiring and Brandon Frey moving back to Colorado, Cody wasn’t sure who will take over that job.
Outside of the sale barn, Cody keeps busy on the family farm, going to Huskers games, visiting family, such as brother Casey in Tennessee, and following his 9-year-old son Coltyr’s fledgling sports career. Coltyr plays football, baseball and wrestles.
Tom and Leisa will be staying around Creston for now, at least. They still have one son, Corey, in school here and a farm to run.
Cody said the future of auctions is bright. He said, just like grain markets at the moment, prices are down a little but not terribly and they are, hopefully, on the way back up.
Now Coltyr hangs around the sale barn as Cody and his brothers and sister used to do. On sale days when there’s no school, he may be seen on the auction block or in the office with Leisa, his “Memaw.”
Cody hopes that Coltyr can have the same experiences and learn the same work ethics as he did. Although Cody said he wants Coltyr to make his own decisions, maybe he’ll make the same choice to follow his grandfather, father and uncles into the auction business.