Auctioneer bids goodbye to livestock business

Allen Olsen plans to spend more time raising cattle and running his auctioneering business.  |  William DeKay photos

Allen Olson is bidding adieu after half a century in the livestock auction business.

He recently sold Rimbey Livestock Auction Mart to Sekura Auctions of Drayton Valley, Alta.

“I just decided at my age it was time to take the opportunity to get out of it while there was a willing buyer,” he said. “There comes a time in life when a person should think about slowing down. That’s the only reason I sold it was because of the age I’m getting to be.”

At age 67, Olson remains an enthusiast about the business he entered at 16 after taking the auctioneer’s course in Mason City, Iowa.

“The auction business has treated me very good over the years. I’ve been very happy to be in it. As far as the livestock market, I know I’m going to miss the activity there and running it, or participating in the management of it.”

The Olson family owned the auction mart in Rimbey, Alta., from 1968-74. After selling the business, Olson stayed on and auctioneered for several years. Along with three partners, he purchased it in 1996 and eventually bought them out for sole ownership.

Olson said he has seen a growing trend of amalgamation in the auction business. Smaller, more specialized companies are being bought up by larger organizations looking to diversify.

“There is getting to be more companies wanting to own more different markets,” he said.

“Just like the equipment business, it’s a fact that companies are getting bigger. The individual guy is kind of phasing out. It is a trend too in the auction mart business that companies want to have more markets under the same company.”

Other than increased volumes and higher prices, he said there’s been little change in the auctioneering part of the business throughout the years.

The big change he sees, and not necessarily for the best, is the rise in internet sales.

“I’m not a great promoter of internet sales because I think they might be ruination of the auction business. I feel you have to have people standing in front of you to be able to have a successful sale. Speaking in general about equipment or animals,” he said.

“My philosophy is, how do you have an auction sale if you’ve got nobody in front of you? That’s one thing we never did was get into the computer end of it, just because of my feelings that way. If people are interested in equipment or livestock, or whatever, I feel that it’s worth their while to come to the sale.… I do realize it may open up the market to people further away that just don’t have the time or whatever to come to a sale. However, there are options where you can talk to people and have order buyers look after you.”

One less iron in the fire doesn’t mean Olson isn’t keeping busy. He continues to own Allen B. Olson Auction Service specializing in machinery and real estate in addition to raising a commercial cattle herd.

“It’s just going to free up a little time to maybe spend more time on the other avenues of equipment and farming my own cattle operation.”

Olson and his son, Dean, run a commercial herd of 350 cows and background 700, to 1,000 calves.

“We’ve been fairly active in that end of the business too and we plan on carrying on that and keep on plugging away,” he said.

This spring when he goes to auction to sell his cattle, Olson will be sitting in the bleachers instead of behind his trusty, worn gavel. Although the tables have turned, he’ll continue to support the business he built.

“When my cattle are for sale, they’ll definitely go directly to the Rimbey Auction Mart.”

He describes the auction as an event, like going to the Calgary Stampede.

“With the livestock auctions, people are coming to check out the neighbour’s animals. We have horse sales once a month and the place is packed to the rafters with people, whether they’re coming just to visit, or just to socialize, or the odd time they’ll maybe stick up their hand and buy a horse or buy some tack or whatever,” he said.

“It’s great fun for everybody.”

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