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October 18, 2010   Email to Friend 

SOLD: Alabama Auctioneers Gavel To Championships
Debra Davis

Proud auctioneers are, from left, Jay Romine, Billy Younkin, Jacob Massey, Brandon Neely, Jeff Showalter, Philip Gilstrap; not pictured: Justin Dodson, Dustin Focht.
SOLD: Alabama Auctioneers Gavel To Championships By Debra Davis The crowd gathered for the weekly sale at Montgomery Stockyards Sept. 13 was larger than normal. It was a packed house filled with more than just the average buyers and sellers. There also were some of the best livestock auctioneers in the country there to compete in the Livestock Marking Association's World Livestock Auctioneer quarterfinals and the chance to compete in the world championship in Williamston, S.C., June 22-25, 2011.

The Montgomery event was the first in a series that will select the finalists for the world championship. Four Alabamians were among the 29 contestants, much to the delight of those gathered in the historic sale barn on the Mobile Highway. They were Brandon Neely and Jeff Bynum, both of Southside in Etowah County; Billy Younkin of Cecil in Montgomery County, and Mike Boswell of Hatchechubbee in Russell County.

Jerry Etheredge, owner of Montgomery Stockyards, said he was excited to host the competition, adding that an auction is the best way to get the best price for cattle. Contest judges scored each participant on vocal clarity and quality, bid-catching ability, conduct of the sale and personal expression.

Two Oklahomans, Justin Dodson of Welch and Dustin Focht of Stillwater, took first and second place, respectively. But the crowd favorite and top Alabama competitor was Younkin, whose introduction grew thunderous applause and cheers from the audience.

Younkin has been a professional auctioneer since 1992. He said while he would have preferred to be the champion in the Montgomery contest, he's excited about competing in the next level and appreciates his local supporters.

"It is still sweet to have a belt buckle from here in Montgomery," Younkin said just minutes after the winners were announced. "I'm very honored."

Younkin said he knew from a young age that selling cattle was the career for him. "My grandfather brought me right here to this stockyard (the former Hooper Stockyard, now Montgomery Stockyard) when I was a little bitty fella, and that's where I got hooked on it," said Younkin, who also raises cattle on his farm in east Montgomery County. "Teachers in school always told me I was more interested in what was going on outside than I was in school work, and I'm afraid they were right. I hope they see that I made it work."

Younkin's home auction site is Mid State Stockyards in Letohatchee in Lowndes County where he is one of three partners who own the facility. He said while the competition was fun, his day-to-day job as an auctioneer is rewarding because it helps producers at a critical time.

"The speed of the sale, making sure the seller gets the very top dollar for what he has and making sure that every bidder gets a fair chance at buying that animal, all is up to the auctioneer," he said. "I like being able to help producers. They work hard all year to grow cows and calves and supply beef for consumers. When cattlemen bring their livestock to a sale, and I'm the auctioneer, they entrust me to help them get top dollar for their cattle. It's very humbling that they put that much faith and trust in me. Sale day is the most important day of the year for them, and it's my job to help them get the most money possible for their cattle."

Neely also was among the top eight competitors named at the contest and will join Younkin and the other six top competitors from Montgomery at the world championship.

Clay Kennamer of Jackson County, who serves on the Alabama Farmers Federation's State Beef Committee, attended the competition. He buys and sells nearly 2,000 head of cattle each year and said he appreciates the skills, ethics and professionalism of a good auctioneer.

"It's important to have a good auctioneer at a sale to help you get all the money you can and to make sure all the bids get taken," Kennamer said. "There's a lot going on while the sale is being conducted. You can have several buyers all actively bidding and trying to buy an animal. The auctioneer has to keep up with what's happening in the ring with the animal and with everyone who is trying to bid. And you need to be able to understand what the auctioneer is saying so buyers know what they're bidding on and seller knows what their animal is bringing."

Pennies per pound often mean the difference between a profitable year and a loss for a cattle producer, said Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Division Director Nate Jaeger. A penny a pound might seem like a small amount to the average person, but to a cattleman selling 30, 500-pound steers, that penny adds up to $150.

"Perhaps most importantly, a good auctioneer will also know how to maintain a good relationship with all of the potential buyers, so no one feels taken advantage of," Jaeger said. "Securing a buyer's loyaltywith clean, straightforward selling will benefit the auction and all the consigners selling animals. An auctioneer is the primary connection between a satisfied seller and buyer. That's a responsibility they take seriously because they know they can have such a big impact on a farmer's bottom line."

Bynum said most auctioneers understand the importance of what they do, at the same time he's thankful to have a job he loves. "I know people who get up every day who say 'I hate my job,'" he said. "But I can't wait to get up every morning, put my jeans and boots on and go crank my truck, cause I love what I do. I thank God every day for what he has given me in my talent."

Video of the quarter final competition held in Montgomery, is available online at YouTube.com/AlabamaFarmersFed



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