ROBERTSDALE, Ala. (WALA) – A 65 year tradition came to a close Monday, May 19, 2014. The Robertsdale Livestock Auction held its last sale. The Auction began in 1949 doing weekly auctions and at one time was the largest of its kind in the state. The auction house filled quickly with buyers, sellers and spectators for the noon auction.
Bids were flying and the cattle kept coming. From calves to bulls, over 300 head were up for auction Monday at the Robertsdale Livestock Auction. That may sound like a lot, but it’s far from when the auction was in its heyday in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In those days it was common to run over 2,000 head through the barn on auction day. In recent years, the auction went from running every Monday to just twice a month.
“The people are buying this land down here and putting it in housing projects…well not housing projects, but fine homes and all…they bought the farmland up and there’s no place to raise the cattle, you know,” said Harry Bryant, with Robertsdale Livestock Auctions.
Harry Bryant has been running the stockyards since it opened and the day was bitter-sweet for him. Cattle sales have dropped off so much that most sales only see 50 to 100 head brought to auction. Bryant said it’s gotten to a point where there just isn’t any more profit to be made in Baldwin County. George Campbell’s family sold the land to the stockyard when it opened in 1949. Campbell was only nine years old at the time, but has worked at the stockyard most of his life. He also had a theory on why there’s no room left for the small cattle farmer.
“A lot of them eventually got into more of the row crop farming and just let the cows …went out. That’s what happened to us now,” Campbell said.
Whatever the reasons, everyone at the sale hated to see it go. Many have been going there their whole life and will cherish all of the memories.
“This is a big part of history in Robertsdale and even though I’m from out of state, I’ve been coming here for years and I know that a lot of my friends have been so it’s sad,” said cattle farmer, Clarence West, Jr.
Even young aspiring cattle farmers like 10 year old Gracie Warriner have made many good memories at the Robertsdale Livestock Auction. When she heard of its closing, she felt like she had to do something.
“I love coming here. It’s like cow heaven. I’ll miss the stockyard and I wanted to have a fundraiser. I would help and give some of my cow money,” Warriner said.
Unfortunately the doors are closing. Those who are in the business will have to change their habits with the times, something 22 year old Cody West is ready to tackle.
“Things change. Things have been changing for years,” West pointed out. “It was changing when I got here. It will be changing when I’m gone, so you just got to hold on best that you can and do what you can.”
Rolling with the punches is about all the farmers can do at this point. The next closest auction site is in Frisco City. With the cost of fuel, that’s a pretty expensive haul. One neat side note to the day was a showing by Burt Hankins, a cattle farmer from Chatom, AL. His family sold the very first cow that came through the barn in 1949 and Monday, Hankins sold the very last one.