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Kansas livestock auction specializes in exotic animals

Amy Hadachek
for The Fence Post

Zebras, camels, ostriches and more sounds like a scene out of the movie about Dr. Dolittle, whose daily companionship came from an array of exotic animals. A recent Exotic Animal Sale featuring these animals and more at the Clay Center Livestock Sale Barn in north central Kansas was a lively success. Typically, the sale barn at Clay Center holds the special Exotic Alternative Animal sales in fall and spring.

“The spring sale was postponed to June 20-21 because of COVID. This June sale was a successful sale, and since it was ag related, we were able to have it,” said Mitch Langvardt, co-owner of the Clay Center Livestock Sale Barn. “We tried to minimize the crowd, we made things accessible, but if people didn’t feel comfortable due to COVID, they could watch it from home through an online service CattleUSA.com which we offer with all our sales. It’s live video of the sale, as it’s going on.”

The Exotic Animal Sale at the Clay Center sale barn, now in its third year, just sold a menagerie of unique animals.

“We sold a zebra, camels, rare birds, also standard chickens, a zedonk (a hybrid of a zebra and donkey), water buffalo, yaks (similar to a small buffalo but more like a Himalayan), also a baby lemur (like a small monkey), a Sulcata tortoise, which is a hearty tortoise from the deserts of Africa traditionally seen at zoos and said to be able to live up to 300 years of age,” Langvardt said.

They also sold an emu and a pair of ostriches at the sale.

Zebras were also a big draw at the sale last fall. A Kansas veterinarian, in partnership with others, bought a female and a male zebra and now the female is pregnant and expecting a baby very soon, and this zebra couple is happily grazing in a pasture in Belleville, Kan., in the midst of breeding season.

People are fascinated by the zebras.

“People drive by and see them, but we’re in breeding season now and we’re not sure how long, but they are very uptight. We’re hopefully going to have a baby sometime later this summer,” said Lannie Hanel, DVM, in Courtland, Kan., who bought the zebras in partnership with Jon Russell of Courtland, and Hanel Black Simmentals of Courtland. “We also just bought another female, so we have two female zebras and one male. Pregnancy for zebras is 12 to 13 months. Should be a normal delivery.” “Zebras are pretty new to all of us,” said Hanel, who has a veterinary practice called the Hanel Veterinary Clinic in Courtland, along with his son Brock Hanel, DVM, and Eric Harms, DVM.

Hanel admits the zebras are intriguing.

“They have unique personalities, and they’re a lot of fun to watch,” Hanel said. “They are very alert. Anytime deer and other wildlife come through, they know immediately if they’re anywhere close. It’s due to the wild animal instinct. The zebras don’t run, they’ll just watch them.”

The two females are out in the pasture with the horse, in fact, they are buddies now. A word of caution though zebras are still wild animals, so whether its now during breeding season or anytime, Hanel asks that people respectfully stay away from the private fence.

The zebras are enjoying grazing in a pasture alongside a refreshing pond, one mile east of Belleville, and then two miles north of U.S. Highway 36, west of the co-op station. At the first stop sign, they’re in a pasture northwest of the intersection.

If people want to see the zebras, Hanel has an important request. “You could take pictures from a vehicle, but I don’t want people walking up to the fence. They are wild animals whether they’re up near the fence which they are sometimes, or not,” he said.

The climate in north central Kansas suits the zebras. “They even withstand the cold, as long as they have shelter,” Hanel said

The zebras eat regular pellet horse feed, grass and hay in the winter. They arrived in Belleville from the sale in December 2019.

A GROWING MARKET

The exotic animal sale has developed by word of mouth.

“It grows each year. We’ve made a connection with people. My business partner Donny Robinson from Holton, Kan., urged me to try it, we have the facilities, and we work together. My children help, my mom does the books in the office, and I have two brothers who help,” Langvardt said.

At the most recent sale in late June, eight to 10 people bought animals online, and then came and picked up their animals.

“They didn’t want to make the drive, in case they didn’t get (bid) the animal,” Langvardt said. “A family from Tulsa came the next day. It was an interesting experience. It’s a packed two days. We try to start Saturday at 9 a.m. and were done by 7 p,m., then we started the next morning at 9 a.m. and the sale again went to 7 p.m. It takes a lot of help. Some of the animals have pretty specific needs, then there’s the loading out, to get them on to their future homes, and working with the veterinarians to make sure we’re up to code, but it’s a challenge that we are up to.”

This fall the sale will be held on Oct. 17-18 and will be their sixth sale. Admission, to cover several costs for the sale is $5 a person or $6 for the online sale.

Facebook page: Clay center livestock alternative animal sale.

For Hanel and his partners, the zebras serve as mascots for the Hanel Black and White Bull Sale held at the Hanel Black Simmental Ranch near Courtland annually, on the first Monday of March. They bought the zebras over the phone, from a person they know in Mankato, Kan.

The male zebra came from Missouri, the female from Phillipsburg, Kan., where there’s somebody who raises them.

At Hanel’s Courtland clinic, in addition to caring for mostly large and also small animals, they perform genetic improvement in beef herds through embryo transfer, artificial insemination and ultrasound technologies.

Hanel is semi-retired, and works part-time at the clinic.

As Hanel looked back on the initial reason he wanted to purchase the zebras, their horse needed a buddy, and “They’ve all gotten along pretty well.” ❖

— Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at rotatingstorm2004@yahoo.com.


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