Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen introduces the latest installment of the Montana Business Spotlight series recognizing and highlighting local businesses across the Treasure State. This feature introduces Montanans to Lewistown Livestock Auction. Click the play button on the featured image above to watch the Lewistown Livestock Auction Montana Business Spotlight.
LEWISTOWN, Mont. — Kyle Shobe may have been destined to own the Lewistown Livestock Auction.
“My first dollar bill that I earned was here at a sheep sale chasing sheep into the pens out back,” laughed Shobe.
Shobe and his wife, Jodie, have only owned the Lewistown Livestock Auction for a couple of years, but they’re well-versed in the history of the business and its significance to the area. Kyle followed in the footsteps of his father as an auctioneer and also worked for the previous owners at Lewistown Livestock Auction.
“The bigger picture here is the history of this business with the community of Lewistown, because the folks that are in the ag industry understand how much business takes place here,” said Shobe, flipping through a magazine article from 1956 highlighting the auction yard. “I think the business owners in town really understand that it has an economic impact on Lewistown, but maybe not exactly what goes on through the sale ring right here.”
“There was a study a couple years ago that the Livestock Marketing Association did,” Shobe continued, “and based on a community like Lewistown, a livestock stock auction market contributes about a million dollars annually to the local economy through jobs, through tax base, and just through bringing numbers to town to keep Main Street green, right?”
Shobe says the business employs 50 people on sale day and draws business from across Montana with an emphasis on keeping local business in Lewistown.
“Last year, what did we sell? Just over 55,000 head through the yards here,” said Shobe. “That’s about $46 million in total sales, in gross sales. So that’s a lot of dollars that change hands in here.
“The thing about an auction market, that’s what it is, it’s true competition, true price discovery. With two or more bidders bidding on that animal, that’s a pretty fair market appraisal, isn’t it? As we get up higher in the chain from the feedlots on, there are fewer and fewer businesses competing for those animals. It poses a problem because there’s less and less competition.”
Shobe explained how the operation works on sale day, with potential buyers monitoring the animal in the ring and taking notice of the information provided by the scale before bidding. Once a seller’s cattle are sold, Shobe’s wife works with her team to settle the checks and pay the sellers directly once the sale is completed.
“A lot of folks come and watch their cattle sell, then go down and receive a check,” he explained. “We sell them by the pound because that’s how meat is sold. … It’s a big part of the nation’s food supply that starts right here.”
Shobe recognizes the many challenges facing the agriculture industry, from rising prices in fuel and equipment to the growing number of lands changing ownership. He says each challenge has a direct impact on Lewistown, as well as Montana.
“Every producer we take out of the picture, that directly affects Lewistown. Lewistown has always been a very eclectic community, but the anchor is agriculture,” he said. “If we continue to lose small ag producers, that will have a direct impact on what Lewistown is and our identity. We feel it’s very important to to do what we can to provide a service to help these people stay in business.”
“We’ll ride the tide. It will make us scratch and work a little harder, but we’re not opposed to that either,” he said.
Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen thanked Shobe for sharing the history and operation of Lewistown Livestock Auction, while noting its importance to the community and state.
“Montanans know how important agriculture is to our economy and way of life,” said Secretary Jacobsen. “Lewistown Livestock Auction is an integral piece of our ag industry, and it’s clear Kyle Shobe, his wife, and team are passionate about the service they provide to hard-working Montanans.
“Thank you for your dedication to Montana’s ag industry, and thank you for doing business in Montana.”