The Williams Lake Stockyards - Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune

RANCH MUSINGS: The co-op, and its importance to ranching in the B.C. Interior

The challenges are in the form of declining cattle numbers in B.C.

The BC Livestock Producers Co-op is a critical piece of infrastructure to the B.C. livestock industry, particularly the cattle industry, having been founded in 1943 in order to provide security for members who were selling their cattle, often into Alberta and beyond.

Last week the board of directors of this member-owned business announced a new general manager, Cordy Cox-Ellis, who ranches with her partner, Clint Ellis. Cordy has been the president of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association for the past several years, being the first woman in that position.

In my memory going back over 40 years, Cordy is the first woman to hold the position of general manager of the co-op. I wish her the best of luck as the business challenges face the organization.

The challenges are in the form of declining cattle numbers in B.C., partially as a result of the Mad Cow disease going back to 2003.

Cordy, who runs around 1,000 mother cows on the two ranches she owns, the Dane ranch at Kleena Kleene in the Chilcotin and the Clesspocket ranch down the Dean River near Anahim Lake, is well suited for this position.

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The co-op has sales yards in Williams Lake, Vanderhoof, Kamloops and Okanagan Falls. They handle calf and feeder financing and offer weekly cattle sales (with more in the spring and fall), and specialty bull, horse and equipment auctions. They have electronic sales via video in conjunction with the Calgary Stockyards.

If you go to the stockyards you will find employees, most of whom are raised and employed on local ranches.

In the past week a local person who worked there passed away — George Keener from Slater Mountain. He was a respected elder from Xatsull (Soda Creek First Nation) and a long serving board member of the Cariboo Friendship Society in Williams Lake.

We will miss him.

At the Kamloops co-op sale this week, a pause in the auction was called to honour a 50-year employee who almost everyone who knows. If you know the co-op you know him -Larry Jordan, auctioneer. He has sold millions of cattle over the years.

The then-president of the co-op recruited Larry from Alberta in 1970.

I think he knew every rancher by name and could cajole almost every bidder in an auction.

Larry certainly made frequenters welcome. Fifty years is a long time to work somewhere. His anniversary gift, of course, was a stylish cowboy hat made of 90 per cent beaver hair—the real thing the presenter said.

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As the employees lined up for a picture with him, I think there was about two dozen people, most of who had been working in the back of the sales yards keeping the flow of cattle coming in to the ring where he would, as auctioneer, point out minor flaws in an animal he was selling.

Thanks to Cordy Cox-Ellis for stepping into the leadership of this essential piece of the livestock industry in the Interior of B.C.

Thanks to all the many full time and part time employees who serve us!

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

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