Sioux Falls Regional Livestock to become part of LMA’s 45-year Auctioneering Championship tradition
The almost-new auction market, Sioux Falls Regional Livestock (SFRL), is getting ready to host on June 28, an industry event steeped in tradition – the 45th annual World Livestock Auctioneer Championship.
Part of that tradition are the three world champions who came from the Dakotas in the contest’s first decade: Robert Schnell, then from Lemmon, SD, who won the top title in 1968; Bob Steffes, then from Arthur, ND, in 1972, and Jim Strain, then living in Martin, SD, in 1973.
For SFRL co-owner and vice president Brad Klostergaard, having his market join that tradition is very exciting. Hosting the contest, sponsored and conducted by Livestock Marketing Association, “means everything to us,” he said recently.
“We’re excited to show our facility to buyers, visitors and all those auctioneers,” says Klostergaard. “It’s a huge deal to us.” The almost-new facility opened a little more than a year ago in Worthing, SD.
The day-long contest, a real livestock sale, starts at 8 a.m. Klostergaard said he expects to have 3,500-4,000 head of cattle going through the sale ring.
“We have a lot of great producers in this area who will bring their cattle in for this sale,” he said.
Thirty-three semi-finalists will be moving those cattle from the sellers to the buyers, in a demonstration of the competitive marketing process.
The contestants are judged as they sell several drafts of cattle, by a panel of market owners and professional livestock dealers.
Judging criteria are vocal clarity and quality, bid-catching ability, ability to keep the sale moving, and by the judges answering the question, “Would I hire this auctioneer to work for me?”
The top 10 scorers then return to the block, where they are judged again while selling more cattle.
Thirty-two semi-finalists qualified through four WLAC quarter-final competitions, conducted last fall and winter by LMA. The top eight scorers in each quarter-final move on to the world championship.
The 33rd semi-finalist is the current International Auctioneer Champion, who traditionally is given a “bye” into the semi-finals.
There were no qualifying contests for ’73 world champion Strain, who won in Norfolk, NE. Back then, he said, “You could just sign up and show up.”
He entered twice prior to the ’73 contest, in 1971 and 1972.
The third time was also the charm for ’68 champion Schnell, who finished second in both 1966 and 1967. Now living in Rapid City, SD, Schnell, 77, won his title in Seffner, FL.
Steffes, of Fargo, ND, also won his title in a southern city, Social Circle, GA. There the Midwesterner noticed a major difference in the way cattle were sold.
“I had been working for an outfit that sold 250,000 head of feeder cattle annually,” and the tendency was to sell cattle in large, “load-lot” strings.
At the Georgia contest, he said, cattle were sold individually. “Every now and then,” he said, “they’d have a big bunch – two.”
For being named world champion, Schnell remembers being awarded “a big trophy and a trip to Hawaii.” But the trip included an auctioneering duty: “I was required to sell a 4-H livestock sale in Honolulu.”
Strain took home “a pair of boots, a trophy, a belt buckle and a Stetson hat. The prizes today have become much nicer,” he observed, adding quickly, “but I wasn’t in it for the prizes.”
The 2008 champions take home thousands of dollars in cash and prizes, including, for the winner, a year’s use of a free truck.
Asked how he felt he would do against today’s auctioneers, Schnell had a diplomatic answer. “Some of these auctioneers are better than any of us old-timers. They’re terrific – they’ve learned from us and have improved along the way.”
Steffes said, “For our time we were very good… but today there is a different kind of auctioneering. It’s gotten faster.” That’s due he said, to the influence of the automobile auctions, “which promote speed.”
Strain was ready to step back into the auction block. “I think I would be a serious competitor,” he said. “I am ready to go up against the new blood.”