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Canada’s best livestock auctioneers compete in St. Jacobs, Ont.

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The 25th annual Canadian Livestock Auctioneering Championship is being held in St. Jacobs, Ont.

The event is being held in conjunction with the Livestock Markets Association of Canada’s (LMAC) annual convention this weekend. Each year the convention and championship move to a different part of Canada. The Ontario Livestock Exchange is the host this year.

Three dozen auctioneers from across Canada competed in the livestock auctioneering championship on Friday.

"There's a lot of good young auctioneers that aren't very old. We have a few rookies in ourselves. Part of this convention, by holding this competition, helps bring in young people to start auctioning and get involved," Larry Witzel, owner of the Ontario Livestock Exchange said.

Over 2,000 head of cattle were brought in for the sale and competition. Volunteers have spent a lot of time getting it in order.

"Last night, they worked well into the night. I think it was about 2 a.m. and some of them were back at it at 5 a.m. this morning," Witzel said.

This is the third convention held in St. Jacobs. It was also held locally in 2004 and 2011. Only three Ontarians have won the auctioneering competition before, including Millbank’s Calvin Kuepfer who is now a judge.

"Obviously, the Western guys are pretty tough competitors. But you know what, here in Ontario, we've got some guys and we've had some champions as well," Witzel said.

Auctioneers are judged on their voice, clarity, chant, ability to spot bids and their overall impression.

"Today is a competition, but every day they're working, doing this at their markets that they work for across Canada and represent," Witzel said.

William Haalstra is one of the 36 auctioneers competing. He lives in Dunnville and does weekly auctions in St. Jacobs. He said he started practicing it on his own, before pursuing it as a career.

Haalstra said listening to recordings of professionals is one way to learn quickly, but practice is important.

"Driving up and down the road, instead of listening to the radio you just keep practicing away. Using telephone poles, trees, whatever works just to roll along and just keep at 'er," Haalstra said.

All auctioneers in the event are certified. Haalstra has been competing for about 20 years, but hasn’t been able to break into the top 10 yet.

"If you live, eat, and breathe it like I do, you just love it. As soon as you sit down I think the biggest part for me is my nerves. I get too excited that I - all of a sudden, I can't catch my breath and get the breath that I need to sell," Haalstra said.

Haalstra said when auctioneering, using fuller words between the numbers improves the rhythm. He said regular buyers can keep up with a quick pace, but he tends to slow down for anyone new to the game.

"You can tell the expression on their face. They're having a hard time listening and following you. You tone it down and you try to do your best to help them," Haalstra said.

For those around the auction ring trying to buy cattle, it’s important that they listen as closely as possible.

"Oh you've just got to listen, real careful," said Matt McCall, a livestock producer from Brussels. "[It] takes many years. It does. You've got to really listen. You got to be steady and listen."

From a business standpoint, those involved say auctioneering helps producers get a fair price for their livestock.

"A lot of the time if you're going to sell your cattle at home on the farm, they use that price that was taken place at the auction as a guideline. So why not bring your cattle down to the auction and let her go, let us work for you, and get your end dollar," Haalstra said.

"If you broaden your window and you have, like you can see in there today, the ring is full, and all at once you have 25, 35, 40 different people wanting to buy your livestock. It's just a natural thing to get the price to the level it should be in a fair manner," Witzel said.

The winner of the auctioneering championship receives a championship ring, a champion's buckle, use of a stock trailer for a year, entry into the International Livestock Auctioneering Championship at the Calgary Stampede and money to help with expenses for the event.

Lars Deleeuw from the Ontario Livestock Exchange in Waterloo Ontario was the winner this year. The 19-year-old is a self taught auctioneer from Burford. Second place went to Ty Rosehill, Rob Bergevin finished in third place, fourth place went to Dave Jacob and fifth place was awarded to Ty Cutler.

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