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New livestock auction seeks local business

CAVE JUNCTION — It's been nearly seven years since Rogue Valley Livestock Auction on the corner of Table Rock and Vilas roads was shuttered and leveled to make way for a Dutch Bros. coffee stand.

That meant arduous trips over the Cascades to Klamath Falls or battling freeway traffic to Eugene or Portland for the region's farmers and ranchers. Now an Illinois Valley family with three decades of experience auctioning animals is set to provide a new option.

The Murphy family, led by patriarch Mike Murphy, will inaugurate a new auction site Saturday on Holland Loop Road, just off the Oregon Caves Highway. Check-in starts at 8 a.m., followed by bidding on animals and equipment at 1 p.m. Shaun Murphy will serve as the auctioneer.

"It's something that's been needed for a long, long time," said Shaun Murphy, a third-generation auctioneer. "I've been hearing again, again and again that people felt there was a void without a market to sell these animals."

The auctions are scheduled to take place the third Saturday of each month.

Although Murphy Auctioneers holds an Oregon license, Shaun Murphy said the family isn't sure what name will stick, because "we're running this as a separate entity."

The Murphys moved into the Cave Junction area 20 years ago, but continue to run auctions in San Bernardino County between Los Angeles and Palm Springs.

"My dad runs horse auctions and I run one of the largest poultry auctions," Shaun Murphy said, adding that between 5,000 and 10,000 birds exchange hands during the monthly auctions.

The centerpiece for the auction yard is a converted barn on a 200-acre spread between Foris Vineyard and Bridgeview Vineyard and Winery.

According to Oregon Agriculture Department spokesman Bruce Pokarney, the most recent attempts to launch auction sites were in Bandon and Roseburg. The Coos County auction yard started on a previous site in 1997, lasting only a year. The Roseburg auction got a new owner in 1999, giving it new status, Pokarney said.

Donny Felton, a member of the Murphy's extended family, said state regulators were at first a bit taken aback at the news of a new auction opening

"After the auction closed in Central Point, we felt there was a need to tie the local agricultural community together," said Felton. "Lots of people were mourning the loss of the auction, because it was the only local market where people could buy and sell, other than a private party. We called the state and got a bunch of permits and planned to open in November. Then the state said: 'Wait, hold on.' This is the license we need and told us actually we haven't done anything like this in at least 20 years."

The Murphys hope to attract farmers and ranchers from Northern California, Oregon's south coast, the Rogue and Umpqua valleys to buy and sell cows, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, llamas, rabbits and chickens. Saddles, tack and tools also will go on the block.

It's anyone's guess how many animals will be hauled in for Saturday's auction, because there were no pre-registered consignees, but Shaun Murphy said there will be plenty of people to assist buyers and sellers.

"We're not sure how many people we will need to hire until we see how it goes this week," he said. "We have a lot of family helping out, though. We're going to have a lot of extra people to make sure the first sale runs smooth."

That requires someone to usher the animals in and out and sort them into pens; it means arena help, an auctioneer, a clerk, computer and data base folks, someone to organize paperwork for consignors and buyers, a cashier and someone to hand out bidding cards. There also will be a state brand inspector and licensed veterinarian on the premises.

For information about the auction, call 541-592-4300 or 541-326-7863.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.