EIGHT agents from across four states will compete for the title of the nation’s best young auctioneer. JAMIE BROWN discovered what drives them to succeed and what they love most about being an auctioneer.
(1) Hamish McGeoch, 25, Landmark Wagga
HAMISH has been in the auctioneering business for the past four and a half years having come off family prime lamb properties at Borambola near Wagga.
“I was brought up in the industry and had a fair idea. One day when an agent came out to visit us I asked him for a job and ended up doing a traineeship with Landmark,” he said.
The other agents took the young protege under their wing and over time he developed his own auctioneering style, but of course selling is only part of the show.
“We spend a lot of time drafting cattle. Sunday night before Monday cattle sale we don’t get much sleep,” he said.
“But I enjoy the variety of work and the interaction with clients and dealing with livestock. My aim is to achieve good results by making the right decisions on where the market is and where the livestock lie. Having happy farmers makes my job easier.
“The challenge at the moment is to incorporate newest technology, like on-line marketing and to offer those as options to my clients.”
In fact, keeping abreast of markets is a crucial part of the job with radio reports and on-line results fed into the mix along with understanding market reactions to local sales and discussing those of other areas with relevant agents.
“We do a fair bit of calling around,” he said. “Communication with other agents is an important part of the business.”
Preparation for Sydney Royal involves lots of practice. “There is nothing better than real-life practice by getting behind the microphone. If you know what’s in front of you and you know the draft that helps an awful lot.”
Hamish developed his microphone style by listening to other auctioneers.
“I took what worked for me, the patter, the attention to detail, the mannerisms. It’s not all about speed. The main thing is to be clear. You want people to understand you. And you need to interact with a different audience, whether that is cattle, sheep, stud sales, clearance sales, they all have a different audience.
“In 10 years time I expect to be doing the same thing as I am doing now.
“When I’m in the vehicle and not on the phone, which is most of the time as my ute is the office, I listen to talk back radio and the Country Hour, every day; that and Triple J.”
(2) Sam Gemmell, 24, Elders Cootamundra
SAM has been working as an auctioneer for the past four years with Elders after accepting a traineeship.
Inspired by his agent father, Richard Gemmell, and surrounded by the industry since childhood at Cootamundra, Sam long considered himself suitable for the job. He credits mentor Peter Cox, Elders Wagga Wagga, for guiding him through those early years.
“I enjoy representing my clients and being able to sell something they have worked so hard for,” he said.
“We’ve got to keep in mind who we work for and that is our clients. Every day we are on-property, assessing stock, pointing people in the right direction, letting them know which market suits their livestock best. It all takes time.
“You’ve got to know what you’re selling and you need to know your values, otherwise you can get caught out. We follow the market.
“It takes time to get it all down pat.”
Practicing in the car is a regular occurrence for this Sydney contender.
“I take bids off the guidepost," he said. "If you want quicker bids drive a bit faster. I record myself and play it back otherwise you don’t know how silly you can sound.”
Once a week Sam has a reality check as auctioneer during the Wagga Wagga cattle sales and again every fortnight at the Cootamundra sheep markets.
“Every time I sell I hit the record button on my phone and stick it in my top pocket. When I play the recording back I can hear any mistakes and will work on those for next time. For instance I might say a word too many times.”
What the future will hold for this young auctioneer is clear.
“In a decade I see myself doing the same thing, maybe closer to home,” he said.
“My favourite holiday destination would be wherever I can take my ski boat. I love it.”
(3) Nick Shorten, 26, GDL Roma, Queensland
NICK has been seven years in the game and this is his first time at the national level of the young auctioneer’s competition.
“I grew up at Scone on a cattle property and attended sales with my father,” he said.
“I liked it. I wanted to be an agent when I grew up.”
Nick said drafting cattle was what lured him into the business and as he grew older he developed an interest in selling and meeting clients.
Preparing for his first Sydney Royal involves practice, and more practice.
“It’s important to keep your voice fit,” he said.
“Preparation by working on the job is important, making sure your numbers are fluent and clear.”
Nick said the hardest thing to get right is the technique of breathing.
“You can’t go too hard too early or you won’t last over a long day so we practice patience and pace. You’ve got to train yourself for longevity,” he said.
Of course, knowing the livestock is key and Nick said that after a weekend spent with a client’s cattle before drafting them on a Monday ahead of a Tuesday sale, he feels confident in standing up and auctioning because he knows the stock almost implicitly.
That interest in the job is not confined to banker’s hours.
“We do a 24/7 business,” he said.
“We don’t turn our phone off at 5pm.”
In 10 years’ time it is likely that Nick will still be selling cattle in the Roma district, as he has fallen in love with a local woman and they are engaged to be married.
“So I expect I will call Roma my home in 10 years time,” he said. “I will continue to build a client base. I like to build a relationship with people.
“If I was to take a holiday it would be to Canada, as I am interested in the beef genetics they are developing there.
“When I’m in the vehicle and when I’m not on the phone I listen to mostly talk-back like Ray Hadley and John Laws.”
(4) Andrew Carcary, 24, GDL Blackall, Queensland
ANDREW has been selling for the past seven years and will compete at Sydney for the first time.
Growing up on a small Brangus property on the Atherton Tablelands he was inspired by his family to stay with agriculture and accepted a cadetship with GDL as soon as he left school.
“I really enjoy the diversity. There is never a boring moment,” he said. “I love the excitement and challenge – and reward – from getting dollars for my vendor. The experience comes with plenty of nerves. You’ve got to know your stock and its values, and the buyer. If you’re true to your vendor the rest will take care of itself.”
Andrew credits Peter Daniel, GDL Dalby, for setting him in the right direction.
“He taught me a lot of things,” he said. “Such as the importance of knowing the cattle market, how to deal with people, how to draft cattle for sale.
“It is important to read market information prior to sale day. We speak to buyers, restockers, lot feeders. We spend a lot of time on the phone, with most of that in the evenings.”
At the moment Andrew is working in the Northern Territory for a GDL subsidiary and while there are some cattle moving into Queensland, he doesn’t call as many sales as those further east so he has been practicing for his second Sydney competition at home on the microphone and in the car.
“I spend a lot of time on the microphone at home or in my own vehicle. When I’m selling on the catwalk I record and listen back later to improve myself,” he said.
“It is important to work on technique like breathing right, getting your presence right and getting your head space right.
“In 10 years’ time I expect I will still be in the industry as an auctioneer. As far as a holiday goes, I’m not that fussed and I listen to country music and rock and roll.”
(5) Murray Bennett, 25, Landmark Wangaratta, Victoria
MURRAY has been in the agency business for five years.
He came off-property and worked as an Angus stud hand at Wangaratta before Landmark offered him a job as cadet.
“I’ve been auctioning on and off for the past three years and have been more serious the past two,” he said.
“They threw me straight in the deep end as an agent,” he recalls, crediting the likes of Peter Burton and Geoff Schrieber, Landmark Wangaratta, for helping him evolve.
“A well-rounded agent has got to be able to offer the whole package. You need to see the cattle on-property to inspect them, draft them accordingly in the sale yards and then get up and control the sale from start to finish.
“Yes, there is a “rush” when you are selling. You are the boss and you need to portray confidence.
“When it comes to dealing with the professional buyers at the prime market who have been around the auctions a long time it seems they know what we’re doing before we do half the time. That’s a challenge.”
Murray said he enjoys offering a complete service to his clients.
“You’re not just selling livestock, you are helping with breed plans and other advice. Certainly the telephone is our most important tool of trade.”
Preparation for Sydney Royal has involved a lot of practice beyond selling twice a week.
“At Sydney we can expect prices to reach a bit more and as an auctioneer you have to be careful. You can be caught off guard. You have to know the market and know your livestock,” he said.
“In 10 years time I see myself continuing in the agency business, but I also plan to be working my own property. A dream holiday for me is to stay home.
“When I’m in the vehicle I listen to the Country Hour and country music – I’m into the lot.”
(6) Joe Allen, 22, Elders, Euroa Victoria
JOE has been in the game for the past two years.
“I came from a farming family and aspired to get into this industry,” he said. “I don’t mind public speaking and getting in front of people. And I love agriculture.
“It’s been great to get the skills but with both sheep and cattle price reaching record highs recently, in my opinion it's a bad time to learn. The mentors I look up to have sold sheep at a dollar a head. Anybody can look good selling in good times.
“Lately cattle prices haven’t been as erratic and I have had a challenge adjusting to those prices. When you are dealing with prime sales and professional buyers you know they have you nutted out. As an auctioneer you need to know who’s who and what are their categories and orders and you work it out from there. It becomes second nature after a while and you can only get that with first hand experience.
For the national titles I’ve been practicing by selling week to week and when I get a moment in the car, alone, I spice things up because the Sydney competition will require a different style.
“Ten years from now I expect to be doing an honest job as an A-grade livestock agent and auctioneer. I’d say my dream holiday destination would be anywhere without phone service. When it comes to music I like Phil Collins, Paul Kelly - all the classics.”
(7) Jack Coleman, 26, Elders Jamestown, SA
JACK has been with Elders at Jamestown for nine years, since he left school and accepted a cadetship.
Coming off a rural mixed sheep and cropping farm in the same district he had always wanted to have a go at calling the bids.
“You set yourself up there and take control and do the best you can with your own style,” he said.
“That’s the alluring part of the job, you have to be on your toes. You need to know the value of stock in your head. Be educated in the industry. You have to be confident and back your judgement.
“During a tough sale use all the tools you have. Professional buyers can drag you down but mostly keep yourself up and positive. Every pen is a new pen.
“I practice as much as I can for Sydney. I write out the steps I will need to take and I really work on my introduction which is the biggest thing.
“In a decade’s time I hope to be doing the same thing and growing my book. I hope I have some respect from people in the industry.
“My dream holiday is about to happen - I will be joining my wife in South America and we will backpack from Peru to Mexico over two months.
“When it comes to music I like Triple J.”
(8) Conor Lamond, 24, Elders Burra, South Australia
CONOR has been in the industry for three years and selling for the past two, now based at Burra, South Australia. He grew up on a dairy farm at Billimari (NSW central west) and went into selling via an Elders cadetship.
Time spent with Des Cuffe at Moura, Queensland and with Jake Kennedy at Claremont, Qld, gave him insight into the art of auctioneering as did Aaron Seaman at Young. When Conor came to Burra the agents “threw me in the deep end, selling the back end of the ram sales”.
“You have to know your buyers,” he said. “You have to know your different stock and understand the market and you call it.”
Practice makes perfect for Conor, who uses his skills in the Burra community, calling the Calcutta before every horse race at the Burra Picnic Race Club. Whenever there’s a community function that calls for a raffle he’s the man with the voice.
“I practice a lot in the car,” he said. “When I drive myself I use the guideposts as bids. I count them as I go along and record myself and play it back later. When I’m mustering sheep I count them - unless there’s 500 of them - I get a pattern in my head.”
Training through Elders in speech pathology, forming the words clearly and breathing, certainly helped.
“In 10 years time I expect I will still be an agent in South Australia, or perhaps closer to home. It’s good work this side of the fence. It suits my personality and with the nationals coming up it’s an exciting time of my career.”