Future of Pipestone Livestock uncertain

·5 min read

The future is uncertain for a livestock market in Pipestone, Manitoba that burned to the ground at the start of this month.

The livestock auction in Pipestone was destroyed in a fire on the evening of Monday, March 1.

The fire, thought to be electrical in nature, began around 6:30 pm when Chad Parks saw what he thought to be blowing snow and went to investigate. When he reached the building, the flames had already begun to spread.

Rhett Parks, the owner of Pipestone Livestock Sales and Whitewood Livestock Sales, says it all happened very quickly. He says that the building held a lot of memories for him and his family. His father Gene Parks and Jim Morris owned Pipestone Livestock Sales before Rhett Parks bought the business.

“It happened pretty quick,” said Parks. “From the time that my brother noticed that there was something up, when he saw the smoke, in about an hour to an hour and a half there was very little left. It was the first auction market that was built outside of Winnipeg in Manitoba back in the late ‘50s. At that time all the cattle would get on the rail and would be sold at the stockyards in Winnipeg. So Pipestone was the first market outside of Winnipeg. It was a place where people would come week in and week out. People would bring their cattle, and they would visit. One of my fondest memories was Thanksgiving dinner. Auctions were originally on Monday at the market and so Thanksgiving would fall on a Monday and my dad would be down there, then we would go down as a family and we would have our Thanksgiving dinner down at the market. It was our tradition for quite a number of years until I came to the market here in Whitewood and started running it here.”

Parks said that the fire was a big loss for their family.

“It’s a hard day for our families. The community as a whole are all feeling a bit of loss here today.”

Nobody was injured in the fire, something Parks says he is grateful for.

“We’ve been very fortunate. We’ve had the market there since 1985. My dad and his partner bought it in ‘85, then we bought it out from my dad’s partner in 2003. It’s been almost 40 years. We’re fortunate to have the producers we serve and the customers that brought us their cattle to the employees that we work with and work alongside, and many of those employees have been with us for a while. We’re very fortunate to have the staff that we do. We’re very grateful for the relationships we’ve made over the past 40 years and we’re extremely grateful that nobody was injured or hurt in the fire, and my brother, Chad Parks, was able to get the cattle that were in the barn out, so that’s the most important thing. Buildings, property, and structures can all be replaced but people can’t,” said Parks.

“Things could have been worse. We’re fortunate that in the big picture it’s just a headache, it’s definitely a setback but in the big picture we’re all still here and we’re all still pushing forward. So we need to be thankful for that. We also have to be thankful for all the emergency response services such as the firefighters, paramedics, and hydro workers.

“I want to thank everyone who was involved in helping get the fire under control. It meant a lot and it’s no doubt a sad day for my family. It still hasn’t quite fully set in. I grew up with that place being where dad worked. That was his business. I’ve been involved in the business for 20 years myself and this was kind of my time to shine. It’s tough, it’s almost like losing a family member in the sense that Pipestone was almost like a home away from home.”

Reconstruction of the auction building is something Parks says they are entertaining, but nothing is decided.

“I don’t want to promise that we are. But in saying that I don’t want to say that we aren’t. In the next little while here we’ll be dealing with our insurance company. I don’t want to lead anybody one way or the other but I do want to say that we haven’t ruled anything out. We’re going to be giving it some serious thought. It’s still just kind of fresh here with the circumstances at this time, but over the next few days, we’re going to be doing some talking and meeting. At this point, I would say nothing is ruled out, but nothing is decided.”

Parks says that the cattle run is thankfully starting to slow down for the season and they were able to operate through the busy season.

“The cattle numbers are going to start slowing down in the next few weeks. In a couple of weeks, the number of head at a sale will start to get very small. That should carry on through the summer. In the meantime we’re undecided. We haven’t had a whole lot of time to wrap our heads around what has transpired. We’re going to be talking here and we’ll have to talk to the insurance company and they’ll have to do an investigation. We’ll get a better game plan going forward from there. In the immediate future, we’ll be closed for a number of months then see what takes place going forward. It’s hard to say at this point.”

For those who want to still support them, Parks encourages producers to make a trip to Whitewood and auction cattle there.

“We’re always happy to see customers come up to either of our markets. We have sales every Tuesday in Whitewood. We have some strong buyers and a strong market here. If any producers are wondering where to go, we’re more than happy to see them come to Whitewood. Our doors are always open.”

Spencer Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator