Under new ownership
An area family with four generations of ranching experience now owns the Rugby Livestock Auction.
Cliff and Alicia Mattson, who raise cattle on their family ranch south of Rolette, took ownership of the auction Aug. 1.
Son Blake also works at the auction and two family dogs do their part to help auction staff move cattle into pens.]The dogs also extend a friendly greeting to auction visitors.
Cliff Mattson said he took charge of his family’s ranch in the 1990s and gained more experience in farm-related business as a manager of the Rolette grain elevator and crop insurance sales professional.
Mattson said his family decided to venture into cattle marketing when “the right opportunity came along.”
“We sold our calves here last spring, and we were really just happy with the way they treated us,” Mattson said of the auction. “They’ve got a reputation here they’ve been building, and we’re very pleased with that.”
Mattson said the auction’s former owners, Kevin and Brenda Heilman, agreed to stay on and help out throughout the transition. The Heilmans’ daughter, Allison, also helps with the transition.
“For right now, there will be minute changes (for the auction), but for the most part, it’s going to be the same as it’s been,” Mattson said. “We’re retaining all the workers and we’re hoping to continue the services we’ve offered in the past.”
“We’re going to continue to market people’s cattle the best way we know how,” Mattson added.
“We market cattle from all over the state,” Mattson said of the auction. “They go from way out west, cover all the northern counties. They go south, they go east. There aren’t a lot of sale barns up in this area, so we have a big area to cover.”
Mattson said the auction also has pickup sites in New Town and Powers Lake.
“If people need to drop off our cattle to be hauled from point A to point B, we’ll try to line that up with them,” Mattson added.
“We’ve got field men who are going to cover different areas. We’ve got one who’s going to cover the east, the north, the south and the west,” he said.
“Sales are still every Monday at 8 in the morning,” Mattson added.
“Usually our busy time will start in October, then it will go all the way until probably April. That’ll be our really busy season,” Mattson added. In this area, there are quite a few people who background, so they’ll sell around the first of the year.”
Mattson explained backgrounding is a term for feeding calves grain and allowing them to forage to build up their weights and immune systems after weaning.
“They’ll sell those calves probably after the first of the year,” Mattson said. “There are guys who are way out west who will wean them right off the cow and give them directly to us. Not everyone does the same thing.”
“We’re willing to accommodate sellers. We’ll make arrangements to accommodate people the best way we can to market their calves for them,” Mattson added. “We’re going to do it the fair way. We have a good crew who has been doing this for a long time. We like to sell (cattle) in bunches as big as we can.”
Mattson added, “What I mean by that is we’ll sort your calves out, but we want to sell as big a bunch for a ranch as we can. We want a good weigh-up for them.”
“We have lots of buyers who come for our slaughter market, too. They’re very competitive,” Mattson noted. “This is one area where we can compete with anyone in the state when it comes to slaughter cows.”
“We’ve got a good market for bulls. We’ll sell yearlings this fall,” he added.
Alicia Mattson said she hoped to become a familiar face at the auction. “I’ve been in ranching since I met him,” she said of her husband. “I moved (to Rolette) when I was in seventh grade.”
“I’m learning the whole sale barn part of the cattle business,” Alicia Mattson said. “I think it’s good so far. There’s a lot of work and a lot to learn.”
Alicia Mattson said Blake Mattson would become a familiar face at the auction, too.
“He’s been around cattle since he was two years old,” she smiled.
“He’s always liked the work,” smiled Cliff Mattson. “He’s living the dream.”
The Mattsons also have a daughter, Chelsie, who studies pre-medicine and psychology at the University of North Dakota.
Ranching work runs in Cliff Mattson’s side of the family.
“It was always called the Mattson Ranch,” Alicia Mattson said of the family’s home place. “Cliff’s grandpa, George, and his grandma had cattle.”
Some customers from north of Rugby already know the Mattson family.
“The majority of our customers are local from Harvey and north of us, in the Rolette area,” Mattson noted.
Allison Heilman nodded. “They’ve dealt with this market,” she said. “There are some sale barn owners who aren’t local,” she added.
“They’re just investors, more so,” said Mattson of some other sale barn owners. “We’re local and we care about the people we work with. We’re in this because it’s something we enjoy. It’s a family business.”
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