WILLCOX — Sonny Shores Jr. has run the Willcox Livestock Auction since 1995 when he, his wife and two business partners bought the auction from his dad, Sonny Shores Sr.

They sell a variety of cattle as well as sheep and goats.

Shores Sr. operated the auction since 1975 after moving the family from New Mexico, where his father ran livestock auctions. His family before him also operated livestock auctions, which makes Shores Jr. a fourth-generation auction owner.

“My dad dealt with this (monsoons) back in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” Shores Jr. said. “The corrals get muddy, but as far as the flooding, we really shouldn’t have to deal with that. In terms of where we live, some of the best cattle in Arizona are made right in southeastern Arizona. We probably sell as many New Mexico cattle as we do Arizona cattle.”

{h3 dir=”ltr”}The drought{/h3}

Like many farmers in the area, the livestock auction was affected by the drought when there wasn’t enough rainwater to irrigate seeds to produce feed for the cattle. After the recent heavy rainstorms, Shores Jr. is thankful for the much-needed help from Mother Nature.

“North of town got between 5 and 6 (inches of rain),” he said. “Our whole parking lot was full. We had 2 feet of water swiftly running through our corrals. Cattle were standing in water knee-deep. Only thing you can do is have the auctions, get the cattle on a truck and get them out of here.”

When drought conditions hit the area, he said more cattle owners were trying to sell off their cattle due to a shortage of available feed because of the lack of rain.

“By February, March of last year, everybody went to selling things,” Shores said. “They would sell cows. Normally they would keep the calves on their mom till they were 4 to 6 months old. Some people sold all of their herds.”

It was easier on cows, he explained, since less feed was used to maintain them as calves were feeding on them.

“All of the (older ranchers) that I spoke to said it was the worst drought that they have ever seen,” Shores said. “We had 1 inch rain for our area in the last year. It started raining here right after the fourth of July.”


When COVID-19 affected the country last year, Shores said he began selling livestock to online buyers.

“Our major buyers, probably 75% of them, are online,” he said. “It affected our markets, and the markets fluctuated back and forth, but as far as our day-to-day (operations), it didn’t affect it a whole lot. Had we not had the internet to sell cattle, would have been catastrophic.”

He said his office doors were locked, and business was transacted through the windows.

“A lot of part-time employees were putting in full-time hours because (we had) more business after the drought,“ he added

Online buyers

Some cattle buyers will purchase livestock online and send a trailer while some drive out, buy and take them home.

“The little (loads) guys will usually pick up the animals themselves,” Shores said. “Professional buyers usually hire trucks to come pick them up. For most of the guys, that’s how they make their living — they buy cows.

“As far as internet buying, we send the animals through the ring, have online buyers on the cameras and local buyers in person. We posted an auction online at DVAuction.com, just like we always did.”

He said his livestock auction is No. 1 in Willcox as the oldest auction.

“We were the first one to go online with the cameras, and now it’s pretty widespread,” Shores said. “I have guys in Kansas and Oklahoma and California.”

The auctioneer that Livestock Auction uses on-site is also carefully checking online to confirm whether or not any online customers are trying to bid on cattle at the same time that in-person cattle buyers are.

Local cattle customers

“We have locals (who buy online), and they will come over and get them,” Shores said. “July is our slowest month, and we were selling more cattle last July. Right at first when there was a meat shortage, we saw a lot of local people taking an entire animal back to the butcher house so that they had meat.

“We saw a lot of people we had not seen before. They would buy a big steer and bring it back to the ranching house. Guys that would normally sell calves now we’re selling calves in March.”

Looking to the future “Starting in September, I would not be surprised if we are down by maybe 25, 30, 35% for cattle sales,” Shores said. “The reason being that you got a ranch out here in Willcox that runs maybe 500 cows, and you’re gonna sell 250 cows of that ranch. Now you’re down 250 cows. Some ranchers liquid all of (their cattle).

“You either gotta sell part of your land or sell the little cows to get them off of (the mother cow), so that they don’t weigh them down.”

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