by the horns
Stockyard owner Wendy Cantrell's
can-do attitude takes her to new levels
in the male-dominated world of
by Heather Berry
It’s 10 a.m.
and Wendy Cantrell is just sitting down for breakfast in the Cattlemen’s
Choice Café across the hall from her
office. She lights a cigarette, places two phones on the table and orders.
One phone rings and a minute later a call comes in on the second phone.
As she hangs up, someone runs in with another phone — and another
call for Wendy.
Cantrell, owner of Miller County Regional Stockyards in Eldon,
conducts a lot of her business over the phone. Her barn’s motto, “We
take the bull out of selling cattle” reinforces her no-nonsense
way of doing business.
“This is how
much of my business is done,” she
says, nodding toward the growing pile of phones. “People call
me and I get to spend their money. I get to do that because they trust
Wendy is a licensed,
bonded livestock order-buyer. Her job is to take orders for cattle,
scour the country for quality livestock to fill the orders and buy
them on behalf of clients.
According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Wendy is one
of only a handful of women in the state who own their own sale barn.
the cattle industry used to be exclusively a man’s world, women
are now running farms and getting a handle on the new technologies
that make the job easier. According to the latest USDA Census of Agriculture,
women run one in every 10 farms in America.
“Women are losing
their husbands, either by death or divorce, and choosing to take over
the farms,” Wendy says. “But they need help. One
of my goals is to help them any way I can.”
Dan, says she often gets calls from women who find themselves with a
cattle operation and aren’t sure what to do with it. So she’ll
go to their farm to offer any help she can.
|While the sale barn is
solely Wendy’s business, her husband,
Dan, comes in to lend a hand when there’s a big auction scheduled.
When he’s not in Eldon, Dan runs the couples 4,200 acre, 600-cow/calf
operation in Republic. The ranch prepares calves for feedyards across
the United States.
“That’s just the
way Wendy is,” says Dan. “She wants
everyone to succeed.”
Her can-do attitude has helped her carve a niche in a business that’s
been predominately a man’s world for decades.
Wendy shakes her
lot of times I’d come home bawling and
squalling to Dan because the men would always point me toward the
lounge whenever I walked into a sale barn,” she says.
I hung in there. I’d be sitting there, smiling and listening
to their ‘oh honey’ this-and-that while I was buying
the cattle they wanted. Finally, the guys decided I must be there
for the long haul and they accepted me, but it took about a decade.”
stockyard’s logo, a little snorting black bull, represents
determination. Her barn’s motto, “We take the bull
out of selling cattle,” reinforces Wendy’s no-nonsense
Mennonite boy catches a rare glimpse of television in the Cattle-man’s
Choice Café as he patiently waits in line.
they call me a ‘little
bulldozer’ because I’m
headstrong and I don’t take no for an answer,” she
Wendy, 51, has been
wheeling and dealing in the cattle industry since she was a youngster
in southwest Missouri. As one of nine children growing up in rural
Buffalo, Wendy feels as if she practically grew up in sale barns while
helping her dad with his import/export Holstein cattle business.
recalls riding wild ponies as a youngster at the sale barns for potential
buyers, to see if the ponies were broke to ride. According to Wendy,
nothing could buck her off.
Wendy’s dad passed away when she was 11, leaving the tomboy on
her own to finish learning the cattle business. By age 16, some of her
buddies decided to take the time to show her the ropes.
buying cattle in central Missouri nearly all her life, Wendy felt the
area could use a new sale barn. So last January, she bought a defunct
elk barn and 60 acres of land near Eldon and launched Miller County
The stockyard held
its first sale in May, drawing 850 cows and calves for sale. Nearly
200 buyers and sellers sat in the auction arena’s comfortable
theater seats to watch a seven-hour sale. While she won’t
reveal numbers, Wendy says the first sale was a huge
Since then, Miller
County Regional Stockyards has been host to sales every Monday. Special
cattle auctions are also held during the week if there’s a need
|Cattle arriving at Miller
County Regional Stockyards are always checked by a veterinarian
who also offers additional services for the cattle at the buyer
or seller’s request.
A few weeks ago,
Wendy held a special feeder-calf sale that brought tremendous prices.
“The cattle brought a higher price per pound that day than prices in Oklahoma
City, Tulsa, Joplin and Springfield,” says
Dan. “She had 15 out-of-state
buyers for that sale, too. And it’s because
she had not just quantity, but quality calves for
Wendy also offers
horse auctions. “It’s
what the people around here want, so we’re
When Dan isn’t
helping with sales in Eldon, he runs the couple’s
4,200-acre, 600-cattle operation in Republic.
Here, the couple prepares calves for feedyards across the United States.
says Dan has always been supportive of her dream to build a sale
barn of her own because he knows Wendy’s good at what she does.
More importantly, the barn offers Wendy a solid business for her future.
got a brain tumor,” Wendy says somberly. “After
one surgery, we’ve decided to take
life one day at a time and live it to the
Pemberton from Richland Livestock asks Wendy a question before
he gets his auction number. Buyers have the option to receive
a permanent auction ID if they wish.
Smart real estate
deals, wise investments and good luck have allowed
Wendy to build her nearly $4-million
stockyard. From the onset, Wendy envisioned offering
new technology and up-to-date information
to cattle producers. Wendy offered source
verification to her clients from the
start. This technology allows buyers
and sellers to track livestock through
a national database. Anticipating the
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plan to implement
an electronic identification system one
day, Wendy offers this service to everyone.
cattle, we’re able to find out if the cattle
were home raised, what their history
of vaccinations is and more,” says
the Three Rivers Electric Cooperative
member, “which in turn brings the
seller more money.”
and “eight-day work weeks,” as
she puts it helps keep Wendy at the
forefront of her industry.
don’t believe in failure,” she
says. “You have to
work hard, hustle and just make it
Miller County Regional Stockyards holds cattle sales every Monday at
10 a.m. except on holidays. Horse and tack consignment sales are held
one Friday each month. For more information, call (573) 392-5572 or (573)