Interlake Cattlemen’s Cooperative Association Ltd.

Building Success for Local Livestock Producers
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

Interlake Cattlemen’s Cooperative Association Ltd. (ICCA) started in 1956, when 10 local cattle producers in central Manitoba came together to work toward improving the market. One year later, the cooperative’s auction mart opened in Ashern, Manitoba, offering a space for local producers to buy and sell livestock. Now, 56 years later, the cooperative is still in operation and successfully mediating the trade.

ICCA is a cooperative with an elected board of 12 directors representative of the communities surrounding the auction barn. The success of the cooperative can be attributed to the dedicated staff, some of who have been with the association for over 30 years. The company’s day-to-day operations are monitored by Kirk Kiesman, manager of ICCA, as well as Lorne “Buddy” Bergner, head auctioneer, who has been with the business for over 3 decades and is very familiar with all of the producers in the area.
Cooperative Operations
ICCA has been at its current location since 1975. The former facility was located in town, but as the operation grew it was decided that being inside town limits was not the best location for a livestock operation. The mart can now hold up to 4,500 head of cattle and has sold as much as 71,000 head of cattle in one year.
Public relations are the most important aspect of the business. ICCA has a reputation of treating everyone fairly and equitably, which is what makes the cooperative so successful. According to Buddy, cattle are sold in the order in which they are received, and ICCA has one of the lowest selling commissions. Memberships can be bought by producers and member accounts accumulate equity, which is in turn paid out on an annual basis.
Maintaining a Market
Benefits of being a member of ICCA include participation in auctions, networking opportunities and access to auctions as a buyer or seller. The cooperative holds auctions every Wednesday, although the crew takes off two months every summer, from mid-June to mid-August. The cooperative keeps costs down for producers by maintaining a low commission rate; ICCA’s reliable affordability both attracts and maintains memberships.
Working out of a single location, ICCA employs approximately 18 people, although the number fluctuates. “Young ranchers make up much of the staff,” Buddy explains. “It can be tough maintaining staff due to other options and responsibilities.” Still, ICCA maintains a core group of employees who keep the operation running smoothly.
Employee retention is not the cooperative’s only concern. As a generation of ranchers is aging out, ICCA hopes to maintain current numbers in the coming years. According to Buddy, the numbers of ranchers continues to shrink due to ranches increasing in size.
As the face of the industry changes, ICCA is taking new approaches to retain business. The crew is utilizing online and electronic sales to make selling and purchasing easier. By following these technological trends, Interlake Cattlemen’s Cooperative Association Ltd. is able to continue to provide the same quality services to members it has for over half a century.