Dan Willoughby was born on a small farm in Westfield, Indiana, where the family raised beef production cattle and 4-H calves, along with his grandfather’s standard bred horses. It was there that family chores turned into a lifelong passion for Dan. Even as a little boy the barn was the location Dan preferred best. In high school, with the direction of his agriculture teacher, Alan Myers, Dan learned to channel his competitive spirit and interest in livestock into what has become a career in an industry he loves. Little did he know at the time that his ever growing interest in the sheep market would soon become the launching pad for what was to become Willoughby Sales, Caldwell Willoughby Sales, The Pig Planet Auctions and theHorseAuction.com.
After graduating from Purdue University Dan married Carol Hamer Willoughby. During these early years and what Carol calls her “introduction to motherhood” the Willoughby’s traveled the country with some of the best livestock youth in the country; buying, selling, marketing and showing livestock on local and national levels. Then in 1993 the Willoughby’s were truly blessed with the addition of Justin Daniel Willoughby. “It’s funny to think back at how time truly flies, says Carol, from Justin and his entourage of ‘big brothers and sisters’, to his final year of 4-H where he had transformed into the mentor for the next generation of show youth. Four decades latter these individuals are still who we count among our family.” Justin is now a freshman at Indiana University studying marketing and communications.
In 1995, Dan and Carol decided to take a leap of faith and take the passion that had once began as a hobby, and turn it into a business. Dan attended Kenneth Gregg’s auctioneers’ school in Lubbock, Texas. After two years hosting Private Treaty sales Dan decided to take things to the next level. In 1997, the first Premier 10 and Midwest Elite Show and Sale were held; now in its 16th season this sale has become the Nation’s Largest Sheep Prospect weekend.
Dan has always viewed the livestock industry from a national perspective and recognized the need for better contacts between the producers and consumers. In 2005, on a cross country drive back from Oklahoma, Willoughby Online Sales was born. “We (Mike Crowder, Matthew Hayes and I) had just left the live sale of long time clients Deb and Brad Ott, Vince McGolden, and Mike Hindman and were headed down the I-44 corridor when we started discussing the best means of marketing these animals to a broad based audience. A few hours and many miles latter these same three clients had signed on to be the first to use this new platform. And the rest as they say is history!” Dan adds, “We are truly grateful to those who took a leap of faith in this platform as this facet of our organization has grown exponentially over the past 8 years.”
Having noted the tremendous growth and success online sales were bringing to the sheep Industry Dan and longtime friend Todd Caldwell joined forces in 2011 to create Caldwell Willoughby Online Cattle Sales. Neither of these men could even imagine the sky rocketing growth that was about to take place when they set out on this joint venture. Dan recalls a conversation that he had with Todd in March of 2011 about the possibility of booking 10-15 club calf sales for the fall of 2011. Conversation turned to action as they made appointments with several breeders in South Dakota and Indiana. In April of that year they made the trek to South Dakota where Todd’s salesmanship and business connections helped to solidify the interest in the online sale platform for the cattle industry. They turned these same skills to the home front where they made it a point to visit with and secure interest from as many Indiana breeders as possible. Early adopter Jeff Miller recalls, “It was a very foreign concept to me, selling cattle over the Internet, but I trusted these men and thought, why not?” Miller added that it turned out to be a wise investment on his part and a great way to get calves into great show families’ hands. My average went up over $1000 per head from 2011-12, you can’t beat that!” Miller Show cattle can also claim the 2012 Grand Champion Steer at the Indiana State Fair that sold through his fall CW Cattle online sale.