Have you ever wanted to buy your own cattle at a livestock auction, but you never understood what the auctioneer was saying? Check out these tips to help you get on the fast track to being a buyer.
Have you ever walked into a livestock auction expecting to buy cattle, only you couldn’t because you couldn’t understand the auctioneer?
This is a common problem for ranchers, both new and old.
Intimidation can dominate your thoughts when you walk into a livestock auction ring. Having a hard time understanding the auction can lead to you missing out on something you could have purchased, or paying more than what you realized.
Check out these tips from an experienced cattle buyer to get an insight into a livestock auctioneer’s cadence.
Arrive Early and Get Comfy
If this is one of the few times you occupy an auction ring gallery seat, you will want to arrive early. Getting comfortable with the ring and the flow of the cattle will help you when the time comes to buy.
Locate the scale screen. This will be where the cattle are weighed. When an animal is sold by the pound, this is the weight you will be paying for.
Find the Auctioneer. When you bid, will the Auctioneer be the one taking the bid, or is the sale staffed with spotters? Spotters locate bidders and gallery, usually in larger auction houses. They will call attention to the bid and follow it to the bidding process. If no spotters are present, you will be communicating your bid to the Auctioneer.
Know what You Want
You came to buy cattle. Knowing what you want to buy will keep you from studying the animals too long when they come into the ring. By being prepared, you will have one less thing to worry about while you’re trying to bid and buy cattle.
Know your budget
The livestock auction is a fast-paced math problem unfolding in front of you. You will be surrounded by dozens of people who are after the same types of animals you are looking for. Hesitate too long, and you will miss out on the perfect addition to your herd.
Know what you can spend before you enter the barn so that you can have your budget information in hand when you arrive.
Watch. Listen, and Learn
Watch the routine and how fast the cattle are let in and out of the ring. Livestock galleries are loud. The slamming of gates; the auctioneer’s cadence over the mic; buyers, sellers, and interested parties talking loudly over the rest of the noise. This can make it difficult for you to hear an auctioneer well.
There are barns that give lots of details about the animals in the ring. Larger barns will have two people on mics – the announcer and the auctioneer. In smaller barns, the auctioneer will make announcements and auctioneer.
Listen to the auctioneer for a while to get to know their rhythm and cadence. Auctioneers seldom change their style. Once you listen for a while, you will be able to hear the words and numbers come apart from the cadence (also referred to as chant).
Figure the Cost
Cattle will sell by the head, by the pound, and by the lot. It is important to remember to listen to this information at the beginning of the bid. Costly mistakes have been made by buyers who think they are paying a “by the head” price instead of a “by the pound” price.
The Auction Song
If you listen to an auctioneer’s chant, like a song, you will learn how to tell what they are saying. The Auctioneer’s job is to sell livestock for the highest price they can get in the quickest time they can manage. This will be fast!
The Fine Art of Filler Words
Auctioneers use words that connect and repeat to the amount that they have secured a bid at and to the amount they are asking for. Anything that is not a number is a filler word. These are the words that fill in the spaces around numbers.
REMEMBER: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE FILLER WORDS TO BID.
Common filler words and phrases used are:
I have and would you give
Anybody want to give
Dollar and now
I am at and will you give me
The words and phrases will be slurred in some way, but you will understand that the auctioneer is asking for a bid.
Auctioneers will also use words like half and quarter to raise and name bids. The filler words will be slurred, but the bid amount will usually be clear. Remember, the filler words only fill in space around the bid amount, and keep the cadence flowing.
The filler words will be put into a cadence as the Auctioneer sees fit. The articulation and punctuation the Auctioneer will use to flavor the bid chant will only help the bid to flow.
It is important to remember that you don’t have to know what the Auctioneer’s filler words are.
The ONLY things you need to be able to understand is the bid amount itself and how the animal is being sold.
Hand Gestures of an Auctioneer
When an Auctioneer is capturing bids, they will use hand gestures and movements to “point” to the direction of the person whose bid they have seen. If you were in on a bid, and the bid is still growing, but the Auctioneer is no longer looking in your direction, you are likely out.
Use the Auctioneer’s gestures to learn how to follow his bids and follow who has placed the bids.
Understanding an Auctioneer can take a while. You will find how cadences vary from Auctioneer to Auctioneer. Once you’ve learned one, another one will have a different rhythm. Learn to pick out how the numbers sound, and you will be on your way to bidding and buying your way through your cattle shopping list.
All sales vary in procedures, but they all carry the same concept – sell livestock. You may find it intimidating to walk into a place you don’t feel like you belong. Take ease in knowing that everyone has walked that same path that you have, with that same feeling.
Even the most seasoned buyers can have difficulties understanding an Auctioneer. If you miss something you wanted, learn from the misstep and start again. If you have questions about anything you see that you do not understand, find someone who can help you. Not knowing the answer could be costly for you.
Have Questions for Our Cattle Buyer?
Our Ask a Cattle Buyer series is designed to help everyday cattle owners get the answers to their livestock market questions. Longtime cattle buyer, Craig Archer, gives you the answers to your market questions from his years in the seat of an auction ring gallery. Send your questions to [email protected].
*Texas Farm & Ranch Solution, LLC brings you helpful information for your livestock operation. Texas Farm & Ranch Solution, LLC, and its associates offer no guarantees of profit from this information. Changes to your operation are at your discretion.
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