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Action at the auction

An evening at Four States' Live Stock Sales

An evening at Four States' Live Stock Sales

February 01, 2009|By CHRIS COPLEY

View the Livestock Auction slideshow.

Buyer meets seller twice a week at Four States' Live Stock Sales on the south side of Hagerstown.

One of only four livestock auction sites in Maryland, Four States remains a lively place on Monday and Wednesday evening.

On auction days, trucks back up to Four States and unload their stock: dairy cows, beef cows, hogs, sheep, goats, calves, steers and more. Some animals are newborn, ready to be raised. Others are at the end of their useful life and are headed for the slaughterhouse.

In the evening, animals are brought, usually one by one, into the arena. Buyers, sellers and interested bystanders sit on bleacher-style seating. On busy nights, such as a recent night featuring dairy cattle, there might be 100 people watching the action.

Jim Starliper, owner of Four States, said his auction house fills a niche for the local livestock market.

"We perform a service. Some people have animals to sell. Some are buyers. Others just come to watch," he said. "A big meat packer in Philadelphia doesn't have the time to go from farm to farm. We provide a place for buyers and sellers to meet."

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Animals move through the arena in batches -- now dairy cows, now hogs, now "cull" cows bound for the slaughterhouse.

Sales are brisk. Handlers try to move livestock through the arena at a steady rate -- one dairy cow per minute, a couple hog sales per minute, two or three calves per minute.

Floyd Davis, one of the auctioneers at Four States, is the point man for the action. A gate clangs open and a cow lumbers into the arena.

Davis presses a microphone to his lips and launches into an unpunctuated patter of persuasion, urging buyers to raise their purchase price by a quarter, a dollar or a couple dollars per hundredweight.

"Sold," Davis intones, and he indicates the buyer.

Handlers usher the cow out through a second gate; the first gate clangs open to let another cow in. The patter begins again.

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