One Square Mile: Mid-Georgia Livestock Market

Photograph by Dustin Chambers
Photograph by Dustin Chambers

Mid-Georgia Livestock Market | Jackson, GA | 49 miles southeast of Atlanta
They sell beef by the pound, even when it still has hooves and a beating heart. The auctioneer wears a white Stetson hat and speaks the numbers in a glorious monotone. He is very fast, very efficient. The cow walks off the scale and through the first gate and the auctioneer calls out the bids in his numerical shorthand and the cow prances and kicks up some wood chips and maybe it moos or leaves a warm souvenir and the bidding ends and the second gate opens and there goes the cow, off to the feedlot if it’s young, the slaughterhouse if it’s old, and then the next one walks in. It all takes barely 15 seconds. There are 375 cattle to buy and sell this Wednesday afternoon at the Mid–Georgia Livestock Market in Jackson, and the bidders will pay dearly. Supply is down. Demand is up. Beef prices are near an all-time high. The man in the big chair at the edge of the railing pays $1,875 for a pregnant cow weighing 1,565 pounds. He is Luke Weaver, a 71-year-old retired insurance agent, and he will tend the calf and one day bring it here to sell. The special chair belonged to a previous auctioneer who retired but kept coming back to watch the auctions. Now the old auctioneer has passed on, but his chair is free to whoever sits there first. Today it belongs to the man they call Mr. Luke. There is less competition than before. Mr. Luke remembers the auctions of 30 years ago. They could be wild, full of double-dealing and intrigue, and instead of three hours they might last 12. Now the buyers represent large industrial concerns, and the local sellers are dwindling. “Too many houses,” Mr. Luke says. “Too many people sold their farms.”

One Square Mile, our new photo column, profiles places located one square mile from metro Atlanta’s 8,376. This article originally appeared in our December 2014 issue.