Rugby Livestock Sales has consignment cattle sales every Thursday. Two weeks ago, 1700 head of cattle showed up for the party.
"Very few sales are that big," said Helga Thiel, who has been bookkeeper for her husband's cattle businesses for 27 years.
Glen Thiel is owner/ office manager for Rugby Livestock. The Thiels bought the business in 1997 and had their first sale on January 8, 1998. Dr. Perry Nermoe serves as veterinarian and Denver Goodman serves as the brand inspector. Both are required by North Dakota law. The veterinarian oversees the health of the animals during the show. He checks for diseases and injuries while the cattle are on the premises. Goodman inspects the brands. The auctioneer is Ron Torgerson. The business has three full-time employees and about 25 part-time employees.
"Thank God for the faithful employees who work for us," said Helga.
Glen and Helga each grew up around cattle so dealing with cattle is second nature to them. That's why this livestock sale business is a good fit for them.
"Most of what we sell are feeder cattle," said Helga, who was pinch hitting for Glen in the interview. He was out tending to his calves after the four-and-one-half inches of snow Rugby got over the weekend.
On Thursdays the sales ring is open from 9:00 a.m.-4-5:00 p.m.
"Our livestock auction is computerized," explained Helga. "The scale is hooked up to the computer which makes weighing and doing the paperwork for entry more efficient. We try to serve the people the best we can."
On the day of the sale, sellers and buyers come from all over the country and of course, local folks, too. Some purchase feeder calves and background them (feed calves until feedlot is ready for them). Occasionally, Rugby Livestock has special shows where cattlemen and cattlewomen sell their whole herds. Buyers come to these to add to their herds. In February, the Rugby sales ring has a Special Production Bull Sale to sell breeder bulls.
The cattle selling business is competitive. People can buy cattle online. It is a challenge to compete against video auctions and internet sales, according to Helga.
"Our commissions aren't as high as what some of them charge," said Helga. Personal service has to be a factor, too.
The Thiels enjoy what they do. "I enjoy the people,"said Helga. "There are a lot of good people."
"There's not a better feeling in the world than when a rancher leaves a sale with a check in hand and a smile on his face," said Helga.
Interestingly, none of the Thiels' three children chose to remain in the business. Chad is a doctor, Beth is a teacher, and Kris is a Certified Public Accountant. The Thiels have seven grandchildren.
"Grandkids are the best treat ever," said Helga.