New owners take over Four State Stockyard in Exeter

Wednesday, February 6, 2019
One of the changes that was made when the stockyard was purchased by the Hammen and Keeling families was bringing in Justin Dodson as an auctioneer. Dodson is from Oklahoma and was top five in the 2015 World Livestock Auctioneer Championship. Also pictured is Cody Leuschen, Four State Stockyard pin back caller. Jordan Privett/

Family operated business hope to offer good market

Barry County Regional Stockyards in Exeter was recently purchased by the Hammen and Keeling families, and the new owners have changed the name to Four State Stockyard.

Chris Hammen, Four State Stockyard co-owner, grew up in Purdy, and his father was a dairy farmer.

On Jan. 29, the Four State Stockyard in Exeter had its second sale since it was purchased by the Hammen and Keeling families. This family-run business has help from almost every member of the families. From left: Chris Keeling, Cade Hammen, Clay Hammen, Colby Hammen, Cale Hammen and Chris Hammen. Jordan Privett/

“I was raised on a dairy farm,” Hammen said. “We ran and fed a calf operation.”

Hammen said he has nine children and the first six were all boys.

“The boys grew up around farming in this area,” he said. “We were interested in this type of work, and the opportunity to buy the stockyard became available.”

A huge part of the business is making sure that sellers and buyers are taken care of, and this means taking care of their product. Cattle are sorted, stalled and organized to make sure the operation moves smoothly. Jordan Privett/

Hammen said he and Co-Owner Chris Keeling came up with Four State Stockyard together, and they have known each other closely for a long time.

“I married his oldest sister,” he said. “To get back at me, he married my youngest sister.”

Hammen said the last sale for the previous owners was on Jan. 19, and the first sale for the new owners was on Jan. 22.

“We did make some changes, probably the biggest one being that we do the sale day on Tuesdays now, instead of Saturdays,” he said. “The main reason for that is that maybe having the sale day on a weekday will bring in more buyers. Also, everyone likes to have a Saturday off.”

According to Hammen, there is also going to be an evening replacement cow sale now, so that people who work day jobs can come in during the evening.

“We are trying to run things similar,” he said. “The main goal is to have a professionally run business.”

Hammen said because people are used to bringing in cattle on the weekends, they will continue to receive cattle then, and there are plenty of feed and water bins for them to be taken care of.

“Our goal is to have a great operation that is a family ran business,” he said. “As the boys are growing up, this is something that we can all have and do together.”

Hammen said what they offer is a specialty blend of knowing cattle and how to care for them, and trying to bring in a good selection of buyers.

“We want to put together a good, clean and professionally ran market for the seller and the buyers,” he said. “It is a good feeling and a big responsibility to do this. People trust you to take care of them and get them a fair price, so it is a really great experience.”

Keeling said he has been in livestock marketing for 25 years.

“I started in Diamond at the Four State Stockyard,” he said. “Then, I worked at the Joplin Stockyards for 21 years.”

Keeling said he wanted to get behind the boys and offer a good cattle market in Barry County.

“We decided it was the right time for the boys to fulfill their dreams,” he said. “We want to get behind them and help them to have work ethic, be honest, do the right things and be fair. For that, they will be rewarded in life.”

Hammen has six sons working at the stockyard: Clay, Colbey, Cale, Chad, Chet and Cade Hammen. Keeling has three sons working there Colt, Carter and Cash, as well as, his daughter Lexi, who works in the Cafe with Keeling’s mother and Hammen’s wife, Kim.

“As a family business, we want to offer a good local auction that is fair,” he said. “We are in a customer service industry, if we didn’t have customers we wouldn’t have jobs, so it’s all about great customer service.”

Cade Hammen, part owner of Four State Stockyard, said it has been a busy transition.

“I always enjoyed getting to know and talking to other people in the cattle industry,” he said. “We are excited to offer a good and honest auction to the community.”

Cade said there is a lot of work that goes into preparing for an auction.

“We spend most of the Monday there unloading cattle and making sure they have hay and water, and we make sure to take care of everyone’s livestock,” he said. “Tuesday, we get there early to sort the cattle, and unload if needed. We start the auction as close to 10 a.m. as possible.”

Cade said he really enjoys talking to buyers before the auction.

“We are just excited for the opportunity to pursue a business in an industry that we love,” he said. “I want to thank the community for the support we have had from them, they have showed an overwhelming support for us, and we are grateful.”

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