The Stettler Auction Mart is one of the longest-operating agricultural businesses in the community.
Founded in 1953 by C.Q. (Charlie) McKay and T.A. (Ace) Pratt, the auction firm will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year.
The auction mart’s first sale was on Aug. 18, 1953.
Stettler and Olds led the way in the province for the establishment of rural auction barns, followed by Ponoka and Innisfail.
Before then, farmers shipped their cattle to Calgary or Edmonton.
McKay and Pratt remained Stettler partners until Pratt’s retirement in 1971, when the McKay family purchased full ownership.
The business remains family-owned to this day. The owners are Greg and Karen Hayden and Jim and Marilyn Abel, daughters and sons-in-law of Charlie and Lorna McKay.
Often described as “a pillar of the community,” the Stettler Auction Mart attracts clientele from a far-reaching radius to Stettler.
Tuesday in Stettler is commonly referred to as “Auction Mart Day,” and the town’s business sector has acknowledged the impact on retail sales.
Co-owner Greg Hayden said the local mart sells an average of 70,000 head per year. At the peak, after the BSE crisis when herds were being liquidated, annual sales topped 80,000 head.
The fall sale season is traditionally the busiest time of the year for the auction mart. Peak-sale days will see 3,200 to 3,500 head marketed in a single day. To accommodate the busy fall run, sales are held twice a week — on Tuesday and Friday.
The auction mart employs 35 full-time and part-time staff to operate the well-established business. The operators have kept pace with changing times by offering Internet bidding and video and satellite sales.
A variety of marketing features are offered, including pre-sort and show-alley sales of feeder cattle, purebred bull sales, horse sales, farm auctions and sale of feed and supplements.
Some real estate and a few oilfield equipment sales are also held.
The auction mart handles between 20 and 25 farm auctions each year. It holds six horse sales per year, marketing about 1,000 head of horses.
“We offer a full range of agri-services,” Hayden said.