By Erin Williams
Southeast Mississippi Livestock: A Q&A with Joe Johnson, Manager
For this round of the Producer Profile series, we’ll take a look at a unique sale barn located in Hattiesburg. Check out our Q&A below with Joe Johnson, Manager of Southeast Mississippi Livestock, to learn more about this Mississippi staple.
Q: Please tell me a little bit about the history of Southeast Mississippi Livestock and also how this sale barn is operated by a Board of Directors versus a single owner.
JJ: “Southeast Mississippi Livestock was started 50 years ago by a group of men, my grandfather being one of them, who had a vision of forming a cooperative that operated as a nonprofit and would pay a patronage back to the producers. It was a unique idea really. We have over 3000 stockholders and basically they own part of the association. We work for our stockholders and couldn’t even operate without them. I really respect them and am thankful for such a support system. They are the backbone of our association. Each stockholder gets an $8 dividend back on their share of the stock each year, although each stockholder must stay active by buying or selling every two years. We are managed by 15 Board of Directors that represent 17 Mississippi counties. Our Board of Directors are elected by stockholders every three years. It’s a wonderful place to work at and for. We have a sale each Monday where we sell hogs, goats, sheep, a few horses, and cattle. Mondays are busy days. I’ve been here for 24 years now, with almost 10 of them serving as Manager. We sell about 60-65k head of cattle and livestock a year and I love this place.”
Q: As a public relations person, I have to ask you what your social media trick is. Southeast Mississippi Livestock has almost 2000 facebook followers, which is quite a platform for marketing to younger generations.
JJ: “Well, I can’t take any credit for that. In fact, it was almost accidental. The girls help me run all of that, but I do think the youth are important. Many older cattlemen aren’t on facebook or computers in general, and I don’t blame them for that; however, the younger people are and that just isn’t going to change. We’ve got to use any and all the ways we can to try and reach them and if facebook happens to be one that’s working, I’m proud of that.”
Q: I’ve looked throughout the website and have been very impressed at how your staff works to keep consumers and producers informed on not just Southeast Mississippi Livestock, but also industry as a whole by posting market notes, links MCA and MBC, and also your Manager’s Weekly Message. Tell me your thoughts behind this.
JJ: “Thank you; I surely appreciate your kind words. The website has been a wonderful tool. I’m very involved in all aspects of the beef industry, whether it’s with MJCA, MCA, MBC, or even Farm Bureau. The thing is, we all don’t need to be so focused on ourselves and our specific organization that we forget to all work together and end up missing the big picture. We all need to support any organization that supports our industry, so I like to put all those links on our page because it’s good information. As far as my weekly message I send out, I just try to take things I learn about the industry and relate them to what is going on in my life currently. I’m not a minister, but I think God leads me in a lot of ways to make those notes informative but also something that people can relate to. Plus, I have a really good Office Manager that takes my bull crap and makes it sound good. She should really get all the credit. She holds this place together”
Q: From the photos on your website, I can tell y’all put a lot of emphasis on your stockholders and their families, how do you feel that’s contributed to the auction’s success?
JJ: “Oh yea we try to do a lot of things that include our stockholder’s families. Whether that may take place at our annual stockholder’s conference or at events throughout the year, we always want to give opportunities for our industry to be a family affair because it truly is. Also, we have a café that serves the best BBQ you’ll ever eat every Monday. Having food available on sale days makes it easier for families to come and participate, especially since our stockholders are busy and work hard.”
Q: Where do you stand on things like the Beef Checkoff Program and becoming BQA certified?
JJ: “I fully support the BQA certification because consumers want a consistent qualify beef that’s produced in a sound and safe way. We’re at that level; we just need to let consumers know that. This certification will help do that work for us. It’s something every cattle producer should do because it increases consumer confidence. We’re holding an event on October 11 to specifically get folks BQA certified and I would like to invite anyone to attend. As far as the Beef Checkoff Program goes, that’s just plain common sense. It’s been proven that every $1 spent has a return of $11 back. Any day I’d give you a dollar for that kind of return so that’s just plain common sense. The Beef Council is struggling to continue our advertisement, research, and beef promotion programs due to the lack of cattle numbers being sold and inadequate funds. It bothers me to see these programs struggling from lack of funding. It is a crucial time for the beef industry to be telling our story and promoting beef. Beef – it’s what’s for dinner.”
Thank you for your time, Joe, and a special congratulations to Southeast Mississippi Livestock on celebrating their 50th anniversary this past May. We look forward to many more years working alongside y’all to promote the beef industry.