Skip to main content

Premier Livestock & Auctions, LLC generates highest volume in Wisconsin

Full service for farmers, diversification keys to success

share arrow printer bookmark flag

March 18, 2024

WITHEE – Imagine 4,000 cattle, transported on more than 500 truckloads – all auctioned off at one location.

That is a normal week at Premier Livestock & Auctions, LLC in Withee – the largest livestock auction in the State of Wisconsin.

This all takes place at N13438 WI-73, three miles south of Withee on Highway 73.

Rocky Olsen and his partners, Ken Stauffers and Travis Parr, are the owner-operators. 

Olsen said the three owners’ involvement in the day-to-day differentiates them from other auction houses. 

A bit of history 

The business was founded by Stauffers in 2012 when the current property was purchased.

In 2017, the property’s existing structures were remodeled, and new offices and an auction ring were built.

No stranger to livestock, Stauffers’s background was in raising, buying and selling horses.

He moved to Wisconsin from Pennsylvania in 1995 to start a dairy farm – an endeavor that led to him selling both horses along with dairy cattle as a side gig and the growth continued.

When natural growth happened with his side gig, Stauffers said he decided to forego the dairy farming business to focus on livestock, and started looking for a location – which ultimately led to the location in Withee in 2001.

Olsen and Parr joined in 2016 – bringing their livestock auction experiences with them. 

Standing out in the crowd

The farming industry, Olsen said, is continuously challenging on many levels.

“Dairy farmers are the ones who are struggling,” he said. “The smaller family farms (realize) there’s not going to be enough profit. And we specialize in dairy cattle. That’s our No. 1 item.”

Olsen said the auction industry works on a commission basis, and though Premier charges substantially less than the others in the market, competition is tough.

“The biggest struggle is (maintaining) that customer base,” he said. “But we are fortunate because we are drawing from other ways and acquiring business from our competitors.”

To remain competitive, Olsen said Premier continues to grow its geographic reach – acquiring new customers, which in turn takes them farther away from their home base in Withee.

“We sell in pretty much every state in the Midwest, including North and South Dakota, Missouri and Illinois,” he said.

The logistics segment of the business, Olsen said, also makes Premier unique on several fronts – specifically because the auction house doesn’t own any of the trucks that transport livestock.

Premier, he said, has a network of fleets they work with to get things done.

The service piece of the business, Olsen said, is a differentiator for Premier as well.

“That is something about our business that is unique (when compared) to some of our competitors in the area – we have one location, and 90% of the time, all three owners are working together on-site,” he said. “At some of the competitors or co-ops around us, there are no owners on-site. We think what (contributes to) our success is that (customers) can pick up the phone and get one of us at our facility at all times.”

Though the industry has seen declining farmer revenue and livestock numbers overall – “I believe (I saw a statistic the) other day that said it’s the lowest cattle numbers since 1940” – Olsen said Premier has managed to grow at a rate of 15% every year since 2016.

Part of that, he said, is because the auction house has continued to diversify its offerings – this includes selling farm machinery, feeder cattle, sheep, goats, swine, horses, dairy cattle and farming real estate.

“There’s not much we are not into,” he said. “Any business has to be diversified into subcategories. You lose in one and you pick up in other categories.”

Olsen said the numbers tell a big story of the auction house’s consistent livestock volume.

“We sell more than 1,200 newborn calves a week,” he said. “We are selling more than 150,000 head per year and almost 4,000 head a week.”

Premier has a four-day, per week market – selling Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with special sales on Fridays – which are held in its on-site, heated facility.

Keeping up to date with farming trends, and reacting to them, Olsen said, has been a crucial aspect of the business.

Being aware of ever-changing farming trends and reacting to them, has also contributed to Premier’s success.

One such area, Stauffers said, is organic cattle.

Premier was the first certified organic livestock auction in Wisconsin – a segment of the industry that he said is seeing an increasing demand.

“A few years ago, we realized the number of organic farms had increased in our area,” he said. “We started to get a lot of requests to buy and sell quality organic cattle. No other auction house was certified organic (at the time).”

Stauffers said buyers come from all over to buy and sell organic cattle.

In addition, Premier sells certified organic hay and bedding as well.

Market reports, Olsen said, which provide details on a variety of farming-related items, are updated on Premier’s website ( daily.

Olsen said he, Stauffers and Parr also do what they can to connect with the next generation of farmers – very much involved in community fairs, supporting the kids and their animals.

Last year, he said, they attended eight county fairs. 

A new way of doing things

The convenience of online commerce is also part of today’s livestock auction world – one Olsen said Premier’s customer base has adapted to, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.  

“A lot of people were not coming to the in-person auctions (which made bidding and purchasing online a natural way to keep the business going),” he said. “Probably 20% of our bids (today) come from (online) buyers for livestock, and we see about 80% in-person.”

Herd dispersal

Olsen said the auction industry can help farmers who are ready to walk away from their businesses entirely – this, he said, is called a herd dispersal.

During a herd dispersal process, Olsen said Premier serves customers from beginning to end.

Premier, he said, can also customize the experience with its private treaty service, which allows for direct one-on-one negotiations between seller and buyer – allowing for a more tailored experience when compared with the traditional public auction.

“We recently wrapped up a private treaty (out of Minnesota) with a herd of more than 2,000 – it was sold privately to one owner (in Michigan),” he said. 

Late-night, last-minute calls

Olsen said flexibility is also a big component of Premier – as late-night, last-minute calls do happen.

“We do a lot of short notice,” he said. “(I have) guys calling me Monday night to pick up all his cattle for the next day’s (auction). And we have no advertising – when you have a following, they know there is going to be a lot of foot traffic and a lot of people showing up… We take care of the buyer and seller to make them feel like they are important. Customer service is important to us.”

A look to the future 

Olsen said Premier will be undergoing an expansion to its state-of-the-art facility this summer.

The goal of the expansion, he said, is to continue to do exactly what got Premier to where it is today.

“I don’t know of another dairy cattle auction in the Midwest (that sells) as many as we do,” he said. “And usually when people need dairy cattle, they say, ‘I’m going to go to Premier,’ and that’s the way we want it. We want to be known (as the go-to place).”

Updates on what Premier has to offer can be found on its Facebook page, which is updated regularly.

share arrow printer bookmark flag