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Formal Report

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LIVESTOCK INDUSTRY

Prepared by Kate Buckner
Secretary of McAlester Union Stockyards

Report Distributed July 24, 2013

Prepared for
ENG 3903 Technical and Professional Writing
Dr. Mark Spencer Southeastern Oklahoma State University

ABSTRACT

This report looks at the history of the livestock industry and examines how it has changed throughout the years. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, and other activist groups have continually tried to cast a negative shadow on the livestock industry; however, with groups such as Livestock Marketing Association, the livestock industry has flourished. The issue of horse slaughter has recently become a big issue for the livestock industry.

INTRODUCTION

The livestock industry has provided beef to the American public since cattle were introduced to our country in the early 1900’s. It is an indisputable fact that the human population requires enough protein to survive and maintain good health. The livestock industry has come a long way in the last century. It has survived droughts, depressions, recessions, fluctuating economies, as well as pressure and criticism from several organizations, such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), HSUS (Humane Society of the United States), the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and other activist groups.

History of Selling Cattle

In the beginning, before there were stockyards, cattle were herded to their meat-packing destinations by cowboys riding horseback. After the cattle arrived at the railcars, they were then loaded and transported to the nearest town with a slaughter house. Upon arrival, the cattle were unloaded into a holding pen at the railway station, where they were watered and fed after what may have turned into a very long journey. The cattle were then loaded into a livestock trailer and delivered to the packing house.

The concept of “stockyards” first began around 1910. It was at this time that large packing companies came into existence, and they began to look to stockyard facilities to furnish them with a ready supply of slaughter cattle, hogs, and sheep. Some of the earliest stockyards were located in Chicago, Kansas City, Sioux City, and St. Louis. The stockyards idea made the long journeys of herding cattle across country much shorter. Instead of hiring cowboys to herd cattle, individual ranchers would deliver their cattle to stockyards. At the stockyards, prospective buyers would view the livestock and negotiate the price with a commission agent. This practice was referred to as a “Private Treaty.”

After graduating from OSU in 1963, my grandfather, Kenneth Sherrill, went to work for Wilson and Company, a major packing house in Oklahoma City, as a cattle buyer. His job description required him to bid on and purchase cattle on the yards at Oklahoma City National Stockyards. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s there were sixteen commission agents that operated on the Oklahoma City National Stockyards. The producers, also known as ranchers, would choose which agent they would deal with when they brought their livestock (cattle, hogs, or sheep) to the market.

This same marketing technique was also used at the McAlester Union Stockyards, which was founded in 1941 and moved to its current location on Highway 69 in 1955. The “auction” style of marketing was first introduced in the state of Oklahoma in the town of Antlers in Southeastern Oklahoma. This new style was quickly adopted at McAlester Union Stockyards in 1955. The Oklahoma City National Stockyards market converted to the auction system in 1961, and they have since dropped to only eight commission agents that operate on the yards. The eight commission companies are National, Central-Halliburton, Western, Custer & Custer, Farmers, J&J, W.H. May, and Stockman-Oklahoma.

McAlester Union Stockyards began with four commission agents in 1941. Elmer White ran Farmers National Livestock Commission Company; Fred Manschrek and C.D. Southern ran Pittsburg County Livestock Commission Company; Doug and Homer McLean ran McAlester Livestock Commission Company; and Boyd Adams ran Boyd Adams Livestock Commission Company. Kenneth Sherrill purchased the stockyards 1974 and changed it to a one agent business, an action that many believed would fail; however, it has flourished to become the largest Oklahoma market on the east side of the state and remains so today. Oklahoma City National Stockyards is still the largest livestock market in the state, however.

PETA, HSUS, and EPA

In the livestock industry, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Environmental Protection Agency are a few activist groups that we have to constantly be prepared for. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals started their undercover investigations in 1981. They have done some great things; however, there are other things they tend to go overboard on. They have shown up to livestock markets around the country and secretly videotaped cattle being hotshotted. To People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, hotshotting is wrong and should never be used. However, to anyone that has ever dealt with cattle, sometimes hotshots are necessary in order to get the cattle loaded, unloaded, and moved throughout the auction barn.

There is a point where enough is enough when using a hotshot; however, people working in livestock markets have been trained to recognize the point where it is time to just let the cattle rest. There are some people in this world who are cruel to animals, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals definitely do a great job in recognizing some of these people and establishments and drawing attention to them. However, in the livestock industry, many of the people have grown up with cattle, horses, hogs, or sheep and have a soft spot in their heart for these animals. People in the livestock industry are not going to intentionally harm these animals.

The Humane Society of the United States has also brought several unethical practices into the light from some organizations; however, they do not understand the livestock market industry at all. The Environmental Protection Agency has talked several times about taxing livestock markets and ranchers for the feces from their cattle. The Environmental Protection Agency says the chemicals in the feces are destroying the Earth’s ozone layer.

While these organizations have done many good things, they have also gone too far. Their views on livestock markets are very skewed. Cattle and horses have been the livelihood of ranchers, not to mention the income source for livestock markets for many, many years. Ranchers and livestock market workers would never abuse the animals they care about so much. While livestock markets have come under fire from these groups, Livestock Marketing Association has started programs to help livestock markets with these groups.

Livestock Marketing Association is an association for livestock markets, producers, and order buyers to be a part of. Livestock Marketing Association advises livestock markets, producers, and order buyers about new legislation, activist groups, and programs. Livestock Marketing Association’s most recent program is a livestock safety-handling program. Livestock Marketing Association developed this program in response to pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, and insurance companies that offered a lower premium for stockyards that participated in this program. This safety program teaches new and existing employees techniques to avoid injury to livestock, co-workers, and themselves. The program emphasizes being calm when dealing with livestock. The program informs employees of tactics used by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, and other activist groups to cast a negative shadow on livestock markets.

Horse Slaughter Debate

The most current issue in the Oklahoma Livestock industry is the horse slaughter debate. House Bill 1999 was signed by Governor Mary Fallin on March 29, 2013. The bill will take effect November 1, 2013. Many agriculture groups supported this bill, such as Oklahoma Farm Bureau, American Farmers, and the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association. This bill allows for a horse slaughter plant to be opened in Oklahoma; however, the meat will not be sold for human consumption in the United States. However, Oklahoma will be able to export horse meat for human consumption in other countries. There used to be two horse slaughter plants open in the United States; they were in Texas and Illinois.

Horse slaughter was banned in the United States in 2006 because funding was no longer available for the inspections of horse slaughter plants. When horse slaughter was banned in the United States, the amount of abused, abandoned, and neglected horses skyrocketed. Horse owners who could no longer afford to feed the horses would turn them out to fend for themselves. Many horses were left to starve to death with no food or water available. While euthanization is an option, it is a very expensive one. It costs between $500-$1000 for the vet to euthanize just one horse, and then hire someone with a backhoe to bury the horse. Many ranchers simply cannot afford this.

The United States Department of Agriculture reported that 102,260 horses were euthanized in 2006. However, over 160,000 horses are shipped just from Oklahoma to Mexico each year for slaughter. Most of the time these horses are shipped on cattle pots, too small for horses, and the horses are injured on the trip. Plus, in Mexico, horses are not humanely slaughtered. In the United States, we can ensure horses do not suffer when being slaughtered. The ban on horse slaughter was lifted in 2011. In 2012, a federal report came out that after the ban, horses were worse off. Governor Mary Fallin stated, “Those of us who care about the wellbeing of horses --and we all should -- cannot be satisfied with a status quo that encourages abuse and neglect, or that rewards the potentially inhumane slaughter of animals in foreign countries.”

In February of 2013, Oklahoma legislatures had a press conference. Livestock Marketing Association encouraged livestock markets to attend and bring as many friends as they could. The idea was to show People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States, that livestock markets and ranchers care about our livestock and want horses to be treated humanely. Not one person from either animal rights group spoke up at that press conference.

Not only would a horse slaughter plant in Oklahoma cut down on the amount of neglected and abused horses in the state, it would provide jobs for our state. Horses right now are sold for $40-$80 at a livestock market; however, if a slaughter plant in the United States, or even Oklahoma, opened, market price for horses would be from $400-$1000 per horse. Also, being able to export the meat for human consumption can help feed the world.

While the issue of horse slaughter is very important, there were two underlying issues in this debate. The issue of private property rights and the issue of livestock markets and producers that feared if animal rights group achieved their goal on the horse slaughter debate, they might try and further push animal rights legislature that would interfere with their way of life.

CONCLUSIONS

The livestock industry has sustained through many trials and tribulations. The people that make up the livestock industry are the main reason it has sustained throughout the years. From the first years of private treaty to the auction style that is the norm now, the livestock industry has come a very long way. People in the livestock industry are not afraid to take a stand. The livestock industry will continue to grow and flourish for years to come. Droughts, fluctuating economies, and pressure from activist groups will not intimidate the livestock industry.

WORKS CITED

Genoways, Ted. “Gagged By Big Ag.”Mother Jones 38.4 (2013): 40-62. Academic Search Complete.Web. 20 July 2013.

Hawkes, Logan. “USDA Wants More Time, Oklahoma Approves Horse Slaughter Law.” Southwest Farm Press 40.11 (2013): 15. Academic Search Complete.Web. 25 July 2013.

Lawerence, John D. Mintert, James R. “Fundamental Forces Affecting Livestock Producers.” Choices: The Magazine Of Food, Farm, & Resource Issues 26.1 (2011): 10. MasterFILE Premier.Web 19 July 2013.

“Oklahoma Oks Bill Allowing Horse Slaughter For Human Consumption.”DVM: The Newsmagazine Of Veterinary Medicine 44.5 (203): 14. Academic Search Complete. Web. 24 July 2013.…...

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