A Reflection on Our Role as Auctioneers
Sometimes as an auctioneer the world can seem likes its buyer vs. seller or auctioneer vs. buyer but today reinforced the idea in my mind that the livestock and farming industries depend on all of us doing well. When those doors open and the microphone comes on its business for all of us, but outside of the auction it is true we all have the same interest, a strong livestock, and farm industry.
After all of my years of selling livestock today, I competed in my very first livestock auctioneer competition. Yes, auctioneers do have competitions. Today's competition was held at West Point Livestock Auction in West Point, Nebraska. 26 auctioneers competed in a real livestock auction. Each auctioneer sold 7 drafts of cattle to real buyers for real money and real cattle trade hands. Contestants are judged on the clarity of their auction chant or vocal quality; their ability to catch bids and conduct of the sale or their presence; and finally if the judge would hire the auctioneer for their own livestock market.
The competition today is the preliminary contest ahead of the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship where 33 contestants from the 3 preliminaries will compete to be crowned the top livestock auctioneer for the year. That auctioneer then is tasked with promoting the sale of livestock at auction along with our customers' interests.
Its never easy to go in front of your peers and be judged but we do it to be stronger. We do it to learn and improve. We do it to improve our careers, understand our industry better and most of all to better serve our customers in our own markets. They say "metal sharpens metal" and that's what happens at events like this. While we all want to make the winners circle, we all understand that the effort, the exposure, the contacts are a part of the reward.
Our livelihood faces more and new threats all of the time as producers and as a result, livestock auctioneers. From government regulation to social acceptance of eating meat comes to mind immediately. I'll admit I was nervous to compete today. Its really hard to put yourself in that spot and as my time to take the microphone neared I was more and more nervous about it. It seems funny, I sell livestock every Tuesday and have for years with no nervousness but this was different. I was in a new barn, surrounded by new people, some I only knew as a profile picture on Facebook and some were complete strangers. I'd be selling on a sound system I'd never sold on before, I'd be looking out at faces I'd never seen, taking direction from people I'd never met before and all the while I'd be working to do everything technically correct and hope to make an impression on the judges. That could probably fit the definition of the word STRESS if you looked it up.
As they called my name, "Contestant number 15 Tom Bradley from Winterset Iowa" I managed to put it all out of my head and I stepped forward to take the auctioneers seat and adjust the microphone as my first draft of cattle entered the door. I'd prepared remarks in my head, the traditional introduction and thank you that you would give as you begin at the contest but something struck me at that moment. Its something I always knew, its something I've said before but at this moment it felt like the right opportunity to verbalize it to everybody present.
I thanked them for their investment in the auction industry. These faces staring back at me at the buyers and the sellers and they are some of the hardest working men and women on this planet. They have tough jobs and they realized the value of consigning to this auction which would be an auctioneer contest. They realized the value of having a strong auction market and ensuring auctioneers have the opportunity to hone their skills. They had hauled cattle to this barn in the worst ice storm in a decade and buyers risked pulling cattle trailers to the auction on this morning on icy roads and bad conditions. They were not there today to get a deal, they were there to be a part of something special. This was the day that buyers, sellers, and auctioneers lose their titles and we are all "the livestock industry" This is something we all have to do because we all have an interest in the industry being strong. Buyers are sometimes sellers, and sellers are sometimes buyers they will flip roles at different times of the year but the auctioneer is always the auctioneer and its important for those in the business they have a strong auction marketing system that can serve their production needs to the highest degree possible.
My experience at West Point Livestock Auction is something I will forever remember and I came away with a renewed appreciation for our industry. I came away with a great sense of pride in what these people do every day for us as auctioneers and for what we do for them as auctioneers. We have a great thing going and its something I am so proud to be a part of.
Lastly, I'd like to say thank you to Jon Schaben and his family for hosting the contest at their barn and to the Livestock Marketing Association for putting the contest on and the great job they do in promoting the interests of producers and auctioneers alike.