A half a century is a true testament to survival of the fittest and this is exactly what the Nix family has done with the Ash Flat Livestock Auction. The business will celebrate 50 years of service to their hometown community in January and that is something to be proud of.
The business was opened in January of 1960 in response to the need for a good livestock market in the Sharp County and surrounding area. At the time of the Ash Flat Livestock Auction's opening those wanting to sell their livestock were forced to travel long distances and over very poor road conditions. Bill Nix said, because there were many producers in the area, it seemed sensible to also have an auction in the area.
Nix was one of the original 16 investors in the market and also assisted in forming the auction. Now, nearly 50 years later, he, his wife Alice, son Mike and granddaughter Melanie are the sole proprietors of the successful business.
Bill said when the barn was first erected, many local cattle producers commented on the large size of the facility and didn't see how it could possibly be filled with livestock for the auction. Bill wasn't surprised when the overflowing population of cattle waiting to be sold at the auction had to be held in the livestock trailers because the barn was overflowing.
Nearly 50 years later, the facility is one of the largest and most modern in the area. The sales are always held on Friday at 1:30 p.m., although it is not uncommon to hear the auction going on late into the night. The Nixes sell about 120,000 head of cattle per year and it is purely a family operated business, although the Nixes have hired hands on sale night to work in the ring, the kitchen and drive the cattle trucks. Bill's wife Alice is responsible for the bookkeeping. Mike is a co-owner in the auction. Melanie has grown up in the business and knows it inside and out. She and her husband Billy Bob love working in the business. The Nix's other granddaughters Mary Ellen and Melinda also grew up around the auction and help out when they are not working at their other jobs. Alice proudly said, "The fourth generation now helps. Nearly all of the family members have worked here and still come in to help when the need is great."
When interviewed for a 30th anniversary story, Bill told "Arkansas Cattle Business" magazine that he treated people the way he wants to be treated and that is being a friend and being fair with the buyer and seller.
Mike began purchasing cattle for the barn at a very early age. He was so young, in fact, that he had to be driven to farms and auctions for years before he was old enough to get his driver's license. Mike also serves as auctioneer, although he has no formal auctioneer training. He said he learned by watching and listening to the auctioneer, then at the young age of 14, he began the work as the full-time auctioneer. Mike has been working at the auction since he was 5-years-old. Mike does on the farm appraisals and performs cattle inspections at no cost to the customer. This gives the producer estimates on weight and price.
Ash Flat Livestock Auction also provides trucks for hauling cattle for producers. The cattle purchased at the sale are sold locally and are also shipped to Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Missouri. One or more of the family members are at the sale barn six days a week buying and selling livestock as well as helping customers with their veterinary product needs.
Bill said producers are very important to the Nix's business, whether it be two head or 200. "They are all good customers. Without the support of all the sellers and buyers, we wouldn't still be in business."