Since 1953, Brussels Livestock has been one of Ontario’s largest and most trusted livestock auction houses. For over 60 years, Brussels has been connecting sellers and buyers, ensuring mutual success and fair market value for their livestock.
The Brussels, Ontario-based company has changed hands a number of times over the years. Sold most recently by livestock industry veteran Len Gamble, who brought over 50 years of experience to the position and dramatically increased the size of the operation, the company came under the ownership of Mark and Cindy Ferraro in 2011.
“I sold another business and was too young to retire, but really wanted something that I could invest in that my sons would also be interested in,” says Ferraro.
Over the last five years, Ferraro has worked to maintain the livestock auction house’s stellar reputation in the region. The company has seen a dramatic increase in revenue in recent years as the price of cattle spikes, allowing Brussels Livestock to maintain a full complement of employees while logging record profits.
Brussels Livestock hosts three weekly sales, with additional sale days in the busy spring and fall seasons. In addition to its regular slate of services, the auction house hosts Vaccinated Calves & Yearling sales and the Huron County 4H Show and Sale on Thanksgiving weekend.
As the largest auction house in Ontario, Brussels Livestock has the capacity to accommodate thousands of cattle; the facility’s primary pens can hold up to 3,500-head of cattle while the feed pens can hold another 3,000. The auction house also features a large sales ring, government-inspected scales, buyer support from Canadian and U.S. packers, veterinary inspection of cattle and large and small pens, allowing each consignor’s cattle to be housed separately.
Playing host to big names in the industry
In May Brussels played host to the Canadian Auctioneering Championships, part of the Livestock Auction Markets Association Annual General Meeting and Convention. The event brought over 30 auctioneers from around Canada to Brussels, where competitors sold more than 2,400-head of cattle as they were judged by a panel of experts on chant, rhythm, voice clarity, control and professionalism.
“They sold cattle all day,” says Ferraro. “They probably went from 10 in the morning until 9 at night.”
The competition calls on competitors to draw on all their auctioneering skills to help command the best price for every head up on the auction block. “They have to be able to assess the animal and put a realistic price on it to start the auction and you have to be very professional in how your present yourself, like wearing a suit with a proper cowboy hat and tie,” he says.
The auction was held during one of the Brussels’ regular Friday sales and featured a different lineup of livestock than one would normally find at one of the company’s auctions. “We made sure to tell our regular customers about it, because we were selling finished fat cattle as well as cows,” he says.
The company itself took part in the competition, with both one of its more experienced auctioneers and Ferraro’s son taking the stage. “Our auctioneer actually won the congeniality award, which is given to someone who has mentored the younger guys and who everyone respects,” he says.
The competition was won by Ryan Hurlburt of Saskatoon Livestock Sales, who best his third-place finish in 2015 with a gold medal this time around. “We were told that we held the best event ever by people who have attended for the past 20 years,” says Ferraro.
A pillar of the local community
In addition to hosting events such as the Canadian Auctioneering Championship, Brussels hosts the annual Huron County 4H Show and Sale. “We arrange buyers to buy their products as a way to encourage the younger generation to stay in the industry,” says Ferraro.
Seeding the next generation of livestock producers is an important consideration in a time when many younger people are leaving the industry behind.
Ferraro believes that in addition to looking after buyers and sellers interest in the sale ring, Brussels Livestock’s success is also attributed to the fact that they represent their customers with government inspectors. “There is a set of rules that govern us all but we have found that sometimes officials’ interpretations differ from that of the sale barn or producer and common sense doesn’t always come in to play. That is where we will work with OMAFRA or CFIA to find a common ground,” he says.
“It’s such a close-knit atmosphere and we’ve developed some really close bonds,” Cindy says.
As Brussels Livestock continues to grow and maintain its position as Ontario’s largest livestock auction house, Ferraro is eager to continue offering the same high level of service and support customers and sellers have come to expect.