Overview of Livestock Auction Market Segment
Livestock auction markets act as an agent, facilitating a sales transaction between livestock buyers and sellers. Many different species are marketed through markets, including cattle, sheep and hogs. Some markets may also sell horses, small animals and poultry.
There are about 1,000 auction markets in the United States, with a heavy concentration in the Midwest, Plains and Southeast regions. These markets accommodate producers with herds and consignments of all sizes.
At 31 million head sold annually, cattle are the largest per-head species sold through auction markets. Approximately 80 percent of cattle producers market their cattle at an auction market each year. In contrast, there are 7 million head of hogs and 3 million head of sheep sold at auction markets annually. The total industry accounts for more than $40 billion dollars in livestock sold each year (NASS, 2018).
Livestock auction markets sell livestock at all stages of life. For example: A cattle producer will market cattle based on the structure of their operation. Further, a cow-calf producer could sell calves through an auction market, with the buyer being another producer who will grow them to a size appropriate for finishing at a feedyard. Likewise, producers could market finished cattle to packers for slaughter.
Auction Market Sector Sustainability Assessment Guide
Recognizing that cattle only spend a very brief time (usually 48 hours, almost always less than a week) in the care of auction markets, the auction impact on Water Resources, Animal Health and Well-being, and Employee Safety and Well-being can still be substantial. Conversely, the auction sector is observed to have a lesser ability to impact Efficiency and Yield, Air and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Land Resources. While metrics may emerge for these remaining high priority indicators for the Auction Market sector in the future, the ability of auctions to drive improvement across those indicators was limited. Thus, the Auction Market sector has focused efforts on the three indicators where they have the greatest impact.
The information presented in the Auction Market Sector Sustainability Assessment Guide will assist in the adoption and implementation of those 3-targeted high-priority indicators around sustainability with supporting documents, guidance, resources and best practices identified by USRSB members and supporting industries.
The content and resources listed in the guidance that accompanies many of the metrics in this section are intended to be used only as suggestions for auction owners/operators striving for continuous improvement in these areas. They should not be interpreted as standards that would determine how the respondent should answer each question.