Dawson Creek, situated just inside B. C. near the Alberta border in the Peace River Country, probably has the newest auction market in Canada. Not every community can say that, says Connie Patterson, president of the Dawson Creek and District Exhibition Association. The association owns the facility and Vold, Jones and Vold Auction Co., headquartered in Ponoka, Alta., runs the markets. They hosted the first livestock sale in the brand new facility on May 13.
The original market burned in 2003 which was a severe blow to the whole community, particularly beef producers who were still reeling from the effects of BSE.
“Our producers were stranded with the closest market 85 miles away in Grand Prairie — 350 miles for some of those the farthest away. That meant lining up transportation and brand inspections to leave the province. We have more people with 50 cows than we do with large herds, so it was a real hardship for them,” says Patterson.
The association’s ties to the market date back to 1954, when members approached the Patterson family about establishing a livestock market at Dawson Creek. The association sold four acres of its property for the site in return for use of the facility and pens one week of the year during the annual agricultural fair, says Patterson, whose family ran the market until 1996.
So it wasn’t a surprise when in August 2007 the exhibition association announced it had purchased the auction property which amounted to the steel penning on cement that had survived the fire and a nearby cattle show barn owned by the City of Dawson Creek.
VJV was contracted to run the auction and sold off 1,800 head at their first cattle sale on September 27, 2007 along with 350 head at a horse sale in that same week. It’s been full steam ahead ever since.
The timing was right to build a new facility this year when financial support came together from the Western Economic Diversification Canada, the South Peace Economic Development Corp, the Northern Development Initiatives Trust Fund and the B. C.’s Cattle Industry Development Council. They broke ground on January 4 and finished in April. The community now boasts a brand new auction market with a year-round office for the exhibition association and a large mezzanine area upstairs for meetings. Patterson is manager of four feeder associations in the area and an administrator of the AgriStability livestock cash advance program for B. C., both of which also have space in the new facility. The veterinary clinic is across the road.
Internet auctions just introduced
VJV owner and manager Blair Vold says it’s been a great arrangement. It was obvious right from the start that the market was going to be well received and was badly needed. When the cattle bypass the community, so does a lot of retail business for the local merchants.
VJV’s first contract with the exhibition association was for three years but after the first year, they extended it to 10.
The market can comfortably accommodate 3,500 head for a sale. There are about 100,000 head of cattle available in the North Peace and about 50,000 went through the market last year, up from 25,000 the first year.
Vold is excited about the potential for VJV’s new computerized show list sales to open up Peace Country cattle to a whole new audience. The program, being introduced this August, is a real-time auction of the Canadian Gold Show Alley cattle sold at specific times during the regular sales from each of VJV’s markets — Dawson Creek, Ponoka and Foothills at Stavely. With the show list describing the cattle posted to the web-site ahead of time, buyers will be able to watch the streaming live footage of the sales in progress and bid over the internet or by phone. VJV has had webcasts from the rings at Ponoka and Dawson Creek for a number of years now, but this is the first time buyers will be able to place bids over the Internet during sales in progress.
Last year VJV established a 1,000-head cow-calf operation at the Northern Lights College’s former farm facility at Dawson Creek. They have a 15-year lease on the facility and are a co-operator in an upcoming manure-recycling plant project.