Salina cattle auction celebrates its 50th anniversary, reflecting on past

Salina cattle auction celebrates its 50th anniversary, reflecting on past

SALINA, Sevier County – Tired of getting less money for cattle of equal quality, ranchers in Southern Utah looked to Farm Bureau to do something about it. What came next was more than a livestock market; it was a story of faith, dedication and sacrifice from Farm Bureau members. 

The 1960s provided a golden opportunity to promote the sale of high-quality, Utah-grown farm and ranch products at fair prices. At first, the Utah Farm Bureau Federation (UFBF) offered a telephone-based information service that operation through the Southern Utah Livestock Marketing Association (SULMA). 

Livestock sellers could call into the Richfield Farm Bureau office to list the animals they desired to sell, and buyers could call into the same office to see what was available to purchase. Over time, interest in the service decreased. A.V. Smoot, the UFBF President at the time, Southern Utah ranchers and SULMA officials decided that existing problems could be solved by a modern, brick and mortar auctioning facility.  

They selected Salina as the location because of its intersection of two important rural highways, and the fact that their current facility, which used the old railroad livestock corrals, was under stress. UFBF offered to construct a new auction building and lease it to the current Producers Livestock Marketing Association in exchange for the auction franchise.  

Producers Livestock had been formed several years prior, to fill a need in the area.  

“There were a lot of cattle and sheep ranchers in Southern Utah, with no place to go to sell their animals,” said Bruce Nielson, who recently retired as the branch manager after more than 40 years of working for the auction. “So, a group of men got together and leased the railyard and started the auction.” 

Construction on the new building was completed in November 1968, and the first auction took place the same month, with 815 head of cattle, 158 calves, 20 hogs and 20 sheep being sold. Just like that, the new Salina Auction was under way! 

The opening marked a proud moment in Utah Farm Bureau history. 

“It’s been a long trail from the first discussion of a Farm Bureau auction in southern Utah to this opening,” said Elmo Hamilton, UFBF president at the time. “I can’t help but commend the many men who worked tirelessly in planning, selling stock and debentures, and even driving nails and wining paint rollers so that we could be ready to go today.”

The auction has grown to be the largest in the Intermountain West, undergoing addition and improvements over time. 

In 2002, nine new receiving pens were constructed, with a new truck load-out and unloading dock and a modern drive-through unloading facility completed on the north side of the facility. This allowed fifth-wheel consigners to avoid backing into a chute and made unloading much faster. 

The auction building interior was also renovated, and a natural gas line was installed with a completely new, more efficient heating plant in place. Additional freezer storage for the building café was provided.  In addition, two new customer restrooms, shower facilities and auction employee locker areas were built on the south side of the auction building. 

The auction recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, and the legacy of sacrifice, determination and hard work lives on at the auction barn in Salina today.

"The partnership between Farm Bureau and Producers shows the foresight and leadership that Farm Bureau Leaders had 50 years ago,” said Ron Gibson, Utah Farm Bureau President. “That has been a very impactful decision. Farm Bureau needs to continue to look towards the future and be the leaders who will make impactful decisions on the future generations of agriculture.”