The Saline & Ouachita Valley Association began in 1972. It is a for-profit organization and is governed by a board of directors. It is currently under the management of Mike Moncrief and Jerry Cruce and operates as Warren Livestock Auction. The auction is doing a good business and renovations and considerable improvements have been made to the facility including the café.
Mike Moncrief sat down with SRC several weeks ago and talked about his passion for the auction and how he ended up coming to Warren to manage the business. He spoke fondly of his relationship with Odel Wolfe, the longtime manager of the facility, and of his desire to make the auction successful, profitable and family friendly. Mr. Moncrief is a retired pilot and cattle farmer himself.
According to Mr. Moncrief, the auction serves sellers, order buyers and ranchers. The market is drawing large crowds including those who just like to watch the activities. He stated the auction is working a number of people, especially on Fridays and Saturdays.
Since the new management team, which includes Mrs. Moncrief, took over the auction they have invested heavily in new computer equipment and software to modernize and speed up the business part of the operations. Buyers and sellers from all over Arkansas and other states take part in the sales weekly.
In talking with Odel Wolfe, one gets a feel for the thought process of a cattleman. Odel and his family have been involved in the cattle business for many decades. His father and his brother Kenneth were cattlemen and Odel and Kenneth operated the auction for a number of years. Later, Odel managed the facility and is considered one of the "experts" in the business. He is the one, according to Mike Moncrief, that convinced him to take over the auction.
According to Senator Scott, he became involved with the cattlemens associtation in 1962. He had cows at the time and wanted to have a local auction that could be utilized by the cattlemen of this part of Arkansas. He lead the organization of around 200 members and help secure a Small Business Administration loan to help built the facility. He stated that a company called Fuller Enterprises, Inc. constructed the building and it was patterned after an auction facility in Oak Grove, La. The late Maury Barnes, a former businessman in Warren in the 1960's and 1970's, was part of Fuller Enterprises. Mr. Scott stated the process took some three years to bring to fruition. The purchase of land and the construction of the facility cost over $150,000.00, when began in 1972. The first manager was Grady Prim from Texas. In addition to the Wolfes, John Bigham operated the auction for a period of time,
While visiting with Jim Scott, he spoke of his efforts to get one cattleman at a time to agree to become a member and to take part in the sales. He showed me minutes of the association in 1970, letters and memos he wrote to the beef producers and a letter from then Governor Dale Bumpers, himself an old cattleman, dated August 2, 1972, expressing his enjoyment at having attended the dedication of the sale barn.
Senator Scott speaking lightheartily told SRC that the headline should be, "they said it could not be done." Apparently there were many naysayers who id not believe the project could be constructed and successfully operated in Bradley County. It took time and effort to get the cattlemen organized and to secure the funding needed. He went on to say that the efforts to build the auction had a positive impact on the ultimate construction of the agricultural building at UAM in the 1970's. This lead to more research by the University of Arkansas.
It was obvious while talking to Mr. Moncrief that he enjoys the cattle business and has a passion for making it work on a profitable basis. It is also obvious that the many cattlemen who utilize the auction are dedicated to making the cattle industry a success for themselves and Bradley County and the surrounding communities. The facility is well designed and well managed. It is an asset to our community and adds greatly to the economy of this part of Arkansas.
Next time you have the chance, travel out to the sale barn and watch the activity. It is fun to watch the auction and there is good food to partake of. Every now and then a horse auction is held and that can be fun to witness too.