Thousands involved in the Ag community were surprised Friday at the news that a long running Cache Valley tradition, the Smithfield Livestock Auction, closed its doors Thursday after 56 years serving northern Utah and southeast Idaho.
The Parker Auctioneering family, which bought the business in 1996, said in its best years sales of 600 to 800 head of cattle a week was typical.
Layne Parker made the announcement Friday morning on KVNU at the conclusion of his weekly on-air report of Thursday’s activity at the auction.
“When we took over about 20 years ago the sale had been kind of run down,” said Jared Parker, Layne’s son. “When we bought the sale they were running 150 to 200 head a week. It needed some major repairs and we felt like we could do those repairs and build it back up. It took several years but we went through and re-built the entire yard, installing steel fencing.”
The Parkers said they bought the auction expecting there would be 10 to 12 years of good business before there wouldn’t be enough cattle left in Cache Valley to keep it open.
“We just about doubled that time, we got to 20 years and now we finally reached the point where there is not enough cattle in our area any longer to keep the doors open and stay profitable,” said Jared Parker.
He said he received dozens of calls Thursday afternoon and Friday morning as the news spread, calls from patrons who had attended the auction for decades.
“It is typical that youngsters whose grandpa used to bring them for lunch and to watch the auction are now grandparents bringing their own grand children,” said Jared. “To be honest, I feel like a lost puppy today. There are a lot of people who feel the same way. Many who aren’t even buying or selling have come to catch up with their friends, see what the market is and have a hamburger and a slice of pie. It’s been an institution in Cache Valley for a long time.”
During his final radio report Friday morning Layne Parker explained how the industry has changed. He thanked the thousands of patrons who have supported the auction since 1959 and praised those who have organized the weekly event, including Sharon Reay (ray).
“She has been there for 33 years, feeding us every Thursday,” said Jared. “There were a lot of people who came to auction every Thursday for lunch and she has taken care of all of them.
“We are really going to miss the interaction with all of the producers in our area. We have been able to meet so many different people and make lasting friendships with people we otherwise would never have met. We will miss the personal relationships the most.”