The Van Trump Report

World Livestock Auctioneer Championship Comes to Oklahoma this Weekend

Oklahoma City is the place to be this weekend if you are an auctioneer, or just a fan. The 2024 LMA Convention, hosted by the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), takes place from June 12th to 15th. The convention culminates on Saturday with what is no doubt the main attraction – the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship (WLAC), which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

This year’s WLAC championship features 31 auctioneers from North America vying to claim the crown. The auctioneers all advanced through qualifying rounds held late last year. Those who made it will now move through the semifinal stage on Friday, which consists of an interview portion that counts for 25% of a competitor’s score. That will be followed on Saturday with a live auction where the competitors’ fast-talking skills count for 75% of their score.

The first WLACs were held in June 1963 to spotlight North America’s top livestock auctioneers and to recognize their important role in the livestock market industry. Auctioneers from the United States and Canada came to the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Denver, Colorado to show off their auctioneering talents. Twenty-three contestants sold the same 20 head of cattle over and over again. The contest was held at hotels until 1967, when it traveled to its first LMA member market. Since then the WLAC has been held at member markets around the U.S. and Canada. Recent locations include Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

The 1976 competition was featured in Werner Herzog’s documentary film “How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck.” Herzog has said that he believes auctioneering to be “the last poetry possible, the poetry of capitalism.” Herzog also used two of the featured auctioneers, Ralph Wade and Scott McKain, as actors in his later film “Stroszek.”

The history of auctions dates back to as far as 500 B.C. when Greek historian Herodotus reported the use of an auction. These auctions were for the purpose of selling women under the condition that they be married following purchase. Later, the Roman Empire used auctions to liquidate property and estate goods. Probably the most bizarre account of early auctions concerns the year 193 A.D. when the entire Roman Empire was auctioned off by the Praetorian guards to the wealthy senator Didius Julianus for the price of 6250 drachmas per soldier.

Today, the most common type of auction is the English Auction, also known as Open ascending auction. The buyers will start bidding with a low price, then the bid prices go up until there’s no more price bidding a higher price. The last person to bid, which is also the person who bids the highest price, will get the item.

Less common is the auction style known as “Dutch Action,” also known as Open descending auction. The seller will initiate a high value and bidders will bid down from this high price, in other words, the bid price will go down until a bidder’s willing to take it. Dutch auction usually takes a short time to complete.

Auctioneers in North America use what’s known as “auction chant,” a rhythmic repetition of numbers and “filler words” spoken when taking bids. The auction chant is a repetition of two numbers at a time which indicate the monetary amount involved with the sale of an item. The first number is the amount of money which is currently being offered by a bidder for a given item. The second number is what the next bid needs to be in order to become the “high bidder”, otherwise known as “the current man on”. In between the numbers are “filler words” which are what the auctioneer says to tie the chant together making it smooth and rhythmic.

Filler words serve as a thinking point for both the auctioneer and the bidders. Filler words can serve to make a statement, ask questions, or can simply serve as a means of adding rhythm to the chant. Some typical filler words taught at auction schools, are “dollar bid”, “now”, and “will ya give me?”. The typically taught chant for beginning auctioneers follows the pattern: “One dollar bid, now two, now two, will ya give me two? Two dollar bid, now three, now three, will ya give me three?”, and continues in this fashion until the crowd stops bidding and the item is sold to the high bidder. The auction chant is much less common outside North America.

The LMA Convention & WLAC is being held in Oklahoma City at the Omni Oklahoma City Hotel, and the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship will be held at Oklahoma National Stockyards. Learn more HERE.

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