Agri Leader

Arcadia rancher turns sale barn into a success

The Arcadia Stockyard is a landmark in DeSoto County, but it hasn’t been there forever.

The cattle sale barn with the wraparound front porch was built nine years ago by owner Carl McKettrick, a cattle buyer for more than 25 years.

“The old market in Arcadia was owned by the state,” said McKettrick, explaining that the building was condemned for termites, and it was unclear whether or not the state would rebuild. “Then three hurricanes came through and tore it up, so they definitely weren’t going to rebuild it,” he added.

McKettrick, a cowboy and cattleman, found his interest piqued when talk of building a new market was started by another businessman. McKettrick eventually bought the idea and plans and put into action what would become the Arcadia Stockyard.

As a cattleman and cattle buyer, McKettrick had his own ideas of how Arcadia Stockyard should work on any given sale day. “My vision when I built the market was to build it correct and right so that it would be here for a long time,” he stated.

McKettrick wanted a state-of-the-art market with technologies like camera systems for viewing and recording the sales, air gates and a top quality scale. He also put a lot of thought into the way the barn was laid out so the flow of cattle was quick and smooth for both the employees and the animals.

“My vision was to move cattle with ease through the barn at a speed that would help us get the job done,” said McKettrick, whose experience sitting in the buyers’ chairs helped shape that vision.

The north end of the barn is where the cattle for sale are penned and includes a drive-through unloading area - a dream for anyone who doesn’t care to back up a truck and cattle trailer.

Once the animals go into the ring and are sold, they pass through gates to the south side, where they are organized in pens for the buyers.

“We’re very happy with how it turned out,” McKettrick said.

The Citrus County native owns the stockyard with his wife, Libby, and silent partners. Six full-time employees help run the business. Mondays and Wednesdays, when the barn is hopping during sales, there are about 25 part-time workers that help keep the sale running. McKettrick is also happy to be bringing his son Carl Jr. on board to teach him the ropes about the business.

“I’m a firm believer in surrounding yourself with kind and hardworking people. I’d put my crew up against anybody.” McKettrick said.

President of the DeSoto County Cattlemen’s Association for the past three years, McKettrick is involved with holding the organization’s semi-annual steak suppers, keeping the cattlemen abreast of the market’s activity and providing information on the new intrastate ID tagging rule.

In order to better track cattle moving within the state, the USDA will be mandating that the animals be tagged during a change of ownership. The Arcadia Stockyard is an approved tagging site, he added.

McKettrick also served as president of the Florida Association of Livestock Markets for two years and said one of his biggest honors was to be asked to judge the World Livestock Auctioneer championship in Oklahoma City in 2010. He was one of only six judges selected from across the country based on his reputation as a sale barn owner and his experience as a cattle buyer.

“That was a pretty nice honor,” said McKettrick, who has the plaque on the wall in his office.

Outside of working at the stockyard on sale days and working his cattle alongside hired hands, McKettrick loves to go fishing and hunting locally and in Texas. He has five deer mounts on the wall at work with 17 more at home, but no matter how many more he gets, the number of heads on the wall probably won’t increase.

“My wife says ‘one in, one out’,” he said with a grin.

While the father of two, stepfather of two and grandfather of seven said starting this business was the most challenging thing he’s ever done, the business has grown well and steadily. Its first year, about 64,000 cattle passed through the ring; last year it was 114,000.

Buyers and sellers from DeSoto and all the surrounding counties come to do business here, McKettrick said.

“It’s been very, very rewarding earning people’s respect,” he added.