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Press Photo by Bryan Horwath Potential buyers line up Friday morning to get a glimpse of the merchandise during the annual Thanksgiving Stock Cow & Bred Heifer Sale at Stockmen’s Livestock Exchange in Dickinson.

A different kind of Black Friday: Ranchers gather in Dickinson for a sale of their own

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A different kind of Black Friday: Ranchers gather in Dickinson for a sale of their own
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

While many in Dickinson braved the crowded parking lots and long lines for retailers’ door-buster deals Thanksgiving night and early Friday, others had a different type of sale in mind.

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Buyers weren’t thinking iPads and high-definition TVs Friday at the Thanksgiving Stock Cow & Bred Heifer Sale at Stockmen’s Livestock Exchange in Dickinson, but rather what their herds will look like this winter.

“It really is like the ranchers’ Black Friday out here,” said Larry Schnell of Stockmen’s about an hour before the sale began. “It’s a big day here. We’ve been doing this for about 30 years and I think we’re still the only place that has a sale of bred female cows the day after Thanksgiving.”

For Richard Jablonsky, who lives about 15 miles north of Dickinson, Friday meant the end of an era as he brought his entire stockpile of 29 red simmental-bred stock cows to Dickinson for auction.

After 51 years, Jablonsky said it was time to move on and into retirement.

“This way, I’ll be able to spend more time with my family and go to more of my grandchildren’s athletic events,” Jablonsky said. “We sold them all today and I’m happy with the price we got. It’s a very good time to sell cattle right now, but I still have some mixed feelings. It was time to move on, though.”

Schnell said Friday morning that he expected close to 2,400 head of cattle to be sold at Stockmen’s before the end of the day.

Unlike Black Friday shoppers at Walmart or the Prairie Hills Mall — crowds that have been likened to herds of restless cattle — the product at Stockmen’s began being rolled out in front of a near-capacity sales ring of close to 350 spectators at about 11 a.m.

“The number of cattle that are selling right now is above average,” Schnell said. “The two main reasons for that are the way the market is now and the good weather we’ve been having. That combination means a lot of cattle are moving — there’s plenty of demand.”

All in all, Schnell said the cattle industry is doing well, despite losses incurred during the “Atlas” blizzard that pounded southwest North Dakota and northwest South Dakota in early October, leading to the deaths of thousands of head of cattle.

“The trend is certainly up,” Schnell said. “That’s partly because most of the commodities have been up, but we have less and less cattle every year in the nation — we have the least amount of cattle in the past 50 years — but it’s still good to be in this business. It’s a tough business, but a good business. We still have the same amount of beef with 30 million less cows. The next few years should be exceptionally good for cow/calf men.”

From what he sees, Schnell said there hasn’t been much of a market effect yet from last month’s blizzard, but that the next “six to eight months” should bring some change.

While being helped by his 2-year-old son, Hayden, who clung to both his dad and a Tonka truck, Belfield resident Zach Tessier spent the first part of Friday’s auction taking it all in, though he said he was looking to buy.

“I’m in the market for some bred heifers,” Tessier said “But we’ll see what’s here. This is Hayden’s second sale — he just loves it.”

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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