A beginner’s guide
If you’ve never been to an auction of any kind before, the idea of visiting your local sale may seem a tad intimidating. I know it did for me the first time I visited, with images of myself scratching my head, stretching my arms, or holding up my hand to cover a cough and inadvertently buying a herd of water buffalo or suchlike by mistake. Yet, with a recent survey by the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA) revealing that 93% of farmers use important auction markets as a reliable method of buying or selling their stock, it showcases the importance of such markets still in the countryside.
These rural sales certainly provide smallholders with opportunity to select from a large range of livestock. Whether you have a particular breed in mind, or are looking to decide, the huge variety on offer can help you work out which is best for you and your plot. The LAA says that extended market reach, prompt payments and the competition of the ring are a major draw for both sellers and buyers.
“Auction marts offer a marketplace for all categories of stock, and the ability to sell in suitable batches, often with the help and guidance of the auctioneer, helps achieve the best price. Our recent research certainly backs this up,” explained Chris Dodds, LAA executive secretary.
Such events are also a popular social outing for many, and over time you’ll get to recognise and know the regulars. For new smallholders in particular they can be a good way of getting to meet others in your area.
TIPS AND IDEAS FOR BEGINNERS Go along and observe first
Rather than rushing into the process it can be helpful to attend an auction first just to watch, chat to others and learn to follow what goes on. Just keeping up with the auctioneer can be a tad confusing till you get the hang of it so this is a good way of acclimatising yourself to the noisy, fast paced action. This way you can watch it all from a relaxed position, getting a feel for
the system so when you go along to bid for real you’ll have a much better idea of what you’re doing.
Take a seasoned auction attendee with you
This is what I did the first time I went and it made the process a lot easier to negotiate. Not only will your market veteran probably know half the people there but they can also guide you through the system.
Get there early
It’s really important to have a good look at the animals before you even consider making a bid for them. If you’re not sure what to look out for in a healthy animal then take someone along who does and can help you. Speaking to the owners can be useful as well so you can ask any questions you might have and get a further idea of the stock. Nowadays it’s sensible to also look the breeders up online. This way you can check if anyone has posted any comments about them, either good or bad previously.
If it’s your first auction then I’d also recommend introducing yourself to the auctioneer if you can so they can recognise you in a larger crowd. Tell them you might be bidding today.
Don’t appear too keen
I’ve heard this said by a few people. It’s best to hold back on making the first bid to see how the land lies, pricewise. The auctioneer might drop back on the price this way and also you can see who else might have an interest in buying so you can bide your time on deciding whether that includes you.
Making an actual bid
Holding your bidding number up (which you obtain from the office prior to the auction) is the best bet as a beginner. Look at the auctioneer when doing so to make sure he (or she) has clocked and acknowledged your bid. Then it’s time to be extra vigilant and keep as calm as possible to see how the bidding pans out. Having a maximum price in mind is essential to help stop you getting carried away in the excitement of the moment (believe me this is easy to do). Otherwise a further nod to the auctioneer if you’re agreeing a bid, or if the price goes above your maximum avoid eye contact or shake your head for a ‘no’, keep your hands and card down out of sight to be on the safe side till bidding moves on.
Collecting your livestock
So you’ve won the bid, then it’s just a case of taking your bidding number back to the office so you can pay for your livestock and obtain a receipt which enables you to claim your chosen animals.
Rather than rushing into the process it can be helpful to attend an auction first just to watch, chat to others and learn to follow what goes on.
Piglets at the market.