Behind every British burger, every woolly jumper, every Sunday roast you sit down to, sits one of agriculture’s most crucial operators – the livestock auctioneer.
Lawrie & Symington’s Willie McCulloch FIA (Scot), who qualified as an auctioneer in Scotland in 1984, discusses the qualities and skills required to succeed in the profession.
To be a successful livestock auctioneer, you need to have enough confidence to carry yourself in public, to take bids, to use your experience to decide how much an animal is worth, and to keep your head before entering the rostrum and facing your audience.
On big sale days, you are managing the buying and selling of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of livestock, which carries with it a significant level of responsibility.
Like any other profession, the first thing an aspiring auctioneer needs to do is to learn the trade. It is a very public facing job that requires considerable experience, a balanced, fair and open-minded attitude, and an up-to-date knowledge agriculture laws and regulations. Ethics, control, and focus are all important.
The typical route for a trainee auctioneer is to study and gain experience over a four-year programme, working as part of an auctioneering business, such as Lawrie & Symington, to gain experience. Many of today’s budding auctioneers study through Harper Adams University, for example, who run a Cert HE programme in association with the Livestock Auctioneers Association in England and Wales and the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland.
These programmes give trainees the skills they need to successfully practice when they graduate; from to financial analysis to building a network of industry links, it’s a vital step in the development process. Experience wise, however, four years is a drop in the ocean when it comes to learning the trade.
Auctioneering is the type of profession where the day before you retired, you’ll still be learning. On graduating, and assuming the trainee is the required minimum of 23 years old, auctioneers become qualified as a fellow of their respective professional body in either England and Wales or Scotland.
The nature of our industry means that you need to take every chance you get to remind sellers why you are the best choice of auctioneer for them. Remembering names and buying histories is important, as is knowing which buyer to look for when the bidding begins. Often buyers bid with a gentle nod of the head or the raise of a finger, so paying attention is vital.
At its core, an auctioneer’s job is to sell customers livestock to the highest bidder for a good price. Successfully doing this comes down to a combination of applying a deep-rooted knowledge of the industry with the nous for understanding your customers and developing a trust-based relationship with everyone you work with.
As ‘judge of the roup’ your decision is final if any disputes arise, so when the gavel falls everyone at the auction is fully confident in your ability and professionalism.