Cheyenne man to compete in 54th annual auctioneer championship
Selling livestock in Billings PAYS
For the third time, the Livestock Marketing Association will host its 2017 World Livestock Auctioneer Championship at Billings, Montana’s Public Auctions Yards (PAYS). Though public is in the name, the sale yard has been privately owned since 1967 by Pat Goggins, and it has remained in the family since.
PAYS was established in 1939 as commission firms and was converted to a livestock auction yard in 1964. It has been the number one auction establishment in the state of Montana since the 1970s, said Bob Cook, PAYS manager. He has been a part of PAYS for 40 years and has a “key to every door”.
Annually, PAYS sends through their pens 115,000 cattle and 60,000 head of sheep and goats combined. They don’t sell any horses, though Billings Livestock Commission is a sister company that sells horses.
“It’s a mainstay in Billings,” Cook said. “We cover a wide trade area and enjoy good numbers.”
PAYS hosted championships in 1993 and 2004, and they were approached by LMA to host again this year, something Cook said they are honored to do.
“LMA sponsors and runs the contest. The vast majority of auction markets are members of LMA,” Cook said. “They hold the national convention in conjunction with the contest, which they will have in Billings.”
Cook believes in what LMA stands for and represents: quality auctions.
“The championship showcases the auction way of selling, which is competitive. We believe in it,” he said. “We have coined a phrase for PAYS: price discovery starts here at the auction.”
PAYS will conduct a sale of three- to four-thousand head of cattle the day of the competition. Cook said, “Thirty-one talented auctioneers will vie for the title. At the end of the day, there will be a champion.”
In order to prepare for the event, the PAYS crew is using a little elbow grease and slapping on a coat of paint.
“Like any place that’s going to hold a big event, we’re sprucing it up a bit, putting a little paint and stain on,” Cook said. “We’re trying to make it look attractive. Like a lot of people that have bulls sales that have to clean up the machine shop once a year, we’ve got to put our best foot forward.”
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Thirty auctioneers across the nation and one in Canada are preparing for the Indy 500 of auctioneer competitions. The Livestock Marketing Association is hosting its 54th Annual World Livestock Auction Championship. The 2017 event, spanning from June 14 to 18, is hosted at Public Auction Yards in Billings, Mont. LMA will host its annual convention in conjunction with the championship.
The 31 qualifiers will compete in a semi-finals round in which they will sell eight drafts of cattle — a draft could be one head or a lot of cattle — which makes up 75 percent of their score. The other 25 percent is derived from an interview questions contestants about LMA and the impact the association has, the auction market industry and current events within, or what auctioneering means to the individual. The top ten will be brought back to the finals, requiring individuals to sell 10 drafts to determine a champion.
Lander Nicodemus, of Cheyenne, Wyo., is champion of the Midwestern Regional Qualifying Event, one of three events that helps determine the 30 competitors of the WLAC and competed in the event for the first time last year. The top ten auctioneers from each event qualifies for WLAC semi-finals. The top Canadian auctioneer rounds out the competitors.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Nicodemus works at Torrington Livestock Markets as an auctioneer and field rep. He also represents the American Hereford Association as the Mountain Region field rep, covering Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Alberta, Canada.
Auctioneering runs deep in the family, though Nicodemus didn’t always know that would be his career path.
“My great-grandpa was an auctioneer and my dad was an auctioneer. It was kind of unexpected to be here. I remember going to the Torrington sale barn with my dad and watching Shawn and Lex Madden and I was just in awe,” Nicodemus said. “After I graduated college, I was really uncertain and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I asked my dad, ‘If I ever wanted to get into auctioneering, what do I do?’ He told me to start counting and gave me a five-minute lesson. I worked at a feed lot in Nebraska for a while and I did a lot of driving for that deal, so I sat behind the wheel and would sell every fence post and electric pole along the way.”
Nicodemus knew he wanted to get back to Wyoming, so he approached the Madden brothers, who own Torrington Livestock, hoping to land a position as field rep. He succeeded and eventually found himself in the big chair behind the mic.
“We have a big cow sale the Friday after Thanksgiving, and Lex gave me a shot to auctioneer. He said, ‘I heard you’ve been practicing,’ and he let me get up there. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my life. They schooled and trained on me since and brought me to where I am today,” he said.
Lex and Shawn are both WLAC champions, Lex in 1998 and Shawn in 2001, and good resources for Nicodemus to learn how to improve his trade or what may catch a judge’s eye.
“I’ve never been the judge, but I think there’s a lot of people out there with absolutely fantastic ability as an auctioneer. I would imagine what stands out is that this is the business they live and work, they know the cattle or the livestock, and they know their value,” Nicodemus said. “They must take serious responsibility of these people’s livelihood. Getting up there and working the hardest you can for the consigner, I sure think that would stand out.”
“Lander is a wonderful young man. He’s a natural and self-taught,” Lex said. “He has a nice cant, very clear, he’s polite, and always has nice presentation. People like him. He’s, also in my opinion, a very good bid caller, and he’s getting better at learning value.”
Reigning World Livestock Champion Andy White will serve as emcee at this year’s event. Many past World Livestock Auctioneer champions will attend the contest, and each will sell cattle during the Parade of Champions, a portion of the WLAC sale between the semi-finalist and finalist rounds, a press release from LMA said.
Cattle will actually be sold during the semi-finals and finals rounds to real buyers, though price isn’t directly tied into the judging.
“I think the judges are looking for an auctioneer’s clarity, a good spokesman, and whether they would hire that auctioneer,” Nicodemus said. “A lot of it boils down to clarity and demeanor in which an auctioneer conducts that sale. I would say in order to come across as an auctioneer conducting an auction well, we need to know value of livestock and show responsibility bringing as much as we possibly can and at minimum what the cow’s value is.”
“If Lander is fortunate enough to win, which sometimes takes time, he will be a good representative, whether that’s now or 10 years down the road,” Lex said. “It took me 8 years to win, and it took Shawn maybe 10 or 11 years, and there are some that are as good or better than us a never did win it. It was just our day.”
Whether Nicodemus wins this year, or comes in the middle of the pack again as he did last year, Lex said they are happy to have him at Torrington Livestock and Cattle Country Video, both owned by the Madden Brothers and Michael Schmitt. He said, “We feel fortunate to have him as a field rep and auctioneer.” F