WHAT TO EXPECT AT A LAMB AUCTION
Attending an auction is a great education in preparing for showing a market project. Even if you already have plans to purchase your project from another resource, attending an auction should start many conversations about different types of conformations and the latest show trends. It’s also a chance to hear about which breeding lines are winning at other shows and the breeder’s perspective on their animals. From a social aspect, it’s fun to get re-acquainted with your show friends or make new ones!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Auctions are divided into 3 sections
- Livestock preview and buyer registration.
- Auction of livestock.
- Payment and pickup.
AUCTION BUYING LIST
- Medium or Large Dog Crates
(Sheep are small (80 lbs.) and can be crated & placed in SUVs or Trucks.
Registration Table – This is where you register to get your auction number and pay for any animals won during the auction. The payment receipt will be shown to the handlers when you pick up your animal. This is how they ensure the correct bidder and animal go home together!
Auctioneer – This is the person who conducts auctions by accepting bids and declaring goods sold. They are the “Voice” of the auction. They will outline the rules of the auction and will state starting bid amounts as well as the increment of bids (usually $50). When they start the first animal, they will announce the Breeder/Farm Name, type of animal and some background on why this is a great animal to bid on. They will start the bidding and look for the first call. Note: Through all of the fast talking, focus on the dollar amounts being declared. They accept bids from their callers. They can also stop the bid to talk things up or clarify the bids.
Auction Callers – These are the people who stand in front of the audience and look for bids. When they see a bid they throw up their hand and call out. This is the person that you will communicate non-verbally with the price. They will be the one to place your bids.
Bidders – This is you! With your registration, you will be given a bidding number. When you want to place a bid, you hold up your number. The caller will see it and call out to place you into the bid.
Common hand signs to communicate prices are:
- Holding up your number – to accept the next increment of bid.
- Hold up fingers or thumbs up – to set you price or increase to the next bid
- Flat Hand moving side to side – You are holding at that price.
- Flat Hand across your throat – You’re out.
- Shaking your head yes or no
YOUR JOB AT THE AUCTION
Introduce yourself to the breeders. Don’t be shy!
Let the breeder know which fair or show you will be competing.
Ask them the question, “tell me about your livestock” Let the breeder tell you about the benefits of their livestock. This is the breeders’ time to showcase and explain how their livestock are the right animal project for you. After all, they spend all year breeding, growing and developing their livestock. They should feel pretty proud of the livestock they are selling. It’s a lot of their hard work at the farm that is sitting in the pen. If they don’t want to be bothered wit h you, then move on to the next breeder.
Remember you are the customer, and it’s their job to educate you on their animals! Listen to other conversations around the pen. Other exhibitors will be doing the same thing and you can pick up some ideas and perspectives by listening in. Over time and experience, you will start forming your own opinion about what style of livestock is appealing to you and what is not. The auction experience is a good way to see a lot of different animals in one place and hear a lot of people talking about body types, breeds, muscles and show styles. So even if it’s not in your plan to buy, go watch and learn!
EVALUATING THE AUCTION PEN:
Mindset: The process of evaluating a rack of livestock starts with looking for good conformation traits followed by eliminating those with poor conformation faults. Read Article on Conformations for more details.
The greatest challenge of the auction rack is developing your eye for what you should be looking for. At first, it looks like a sea of wool or hair and they all look alike! But once you start looking at each animal and comparing it to the next animal, you will begin to zero in on specific traits that are important to you.
Don’t be shy about asking for the breeder to pull a lamb or goat off the rack to be able to see all sides. Never pull an animal off the rack without the permission of the breeder.
Ask yourself a few questions when you look at a rack of goats or lambs:
- Do they look appealing to me?
- Do they look healthy?
- Do they look strong and sturdy?
- Do they look the right size and weight for my show?
- Take notes of numbers and brief descriptions of what you like.
Arrive early enough to preview all of the available animals. Most auctions will have local vendors with associated products on hand. They will be selling equipment, feed as well as lunches for you!
If you plan on buying an animal, have a set price range for what you are willing to spend. This will help you make decisions during the auction process. It’s both exciting and nerve racking to be bidding, and having a top dollar will take the out the emotions and add in the business mind! We all want to win a bid, but the challenge is dropping out of the bid when it has reached your top dollar. It is harder than you think! The auction caller will press you to bid again and you’ll feel everyone looking around to see who is bidding. Stick to your price plan! There is nothing worse than to over spend on a project where it will be hard to make a profit. If the auction prices are too high, have a secondary option for purchasing your project. Do not feel forced into making a purchase. The goal is to find a project that you like and is within your budget.
STEPS TO A POSITIVE AUCTION EXPERIENCE!
Arrive early to the auction so that you will have plenty of time to fully check out the auction layout and figure out how the sale is organized.
Register for a buyer number and pick up the auction listing. Without a buyer number, you will not be able to bid.
Evaluate the animals. Use the auction list during your evaluation to mark animals that have caught your attention and take notes as you talk to breeders. This will help you keep track of the animals once the auction has begun. Pay close attention to the animals. Evaluate them from nose to tail, & top to bottom. Read article “Market Lamb Conformation ” for more selection tips & details.
Document the Sales Prices. During the auction, it can be helpful to document the sales price of each animal. This helps to see the price trends of the sale. Sometimes the first couple of animals will sell at lower prices, as it takes the bidders a bit of time to warm up and begin participating in the auction. The hardest part is to have several animals selected and pick one to buy. Because they are auctioned off in order, it sort of forces you to bid on the first animal on your list. This is how I came home with two animals…when I really only wanted one!
Pay Attention! Save the chitchat with your neighbor for after the sale. The animals are auctioned at a fast rate and it can be easy to miss one of your selections.
Stick to your Budget: The only exception to exceeding your budget is if your budget was not a realistic market price to begin with. For example, if you thought you could buy an animal for $200 and the bottom prices are $350, then your budget was not accurate and you will need to adjust. If the market prices are just crazy high, move-on as there are plenty of other resources to pick up an animal at a reasonable price. Pets-n-Projects can be a great resource for networking buyers & breeders in your area.
Ask the Breeder: If you purchase an animal, be sure to ask the breeder what feed has been given to your animal. If you will be using a different feed, you will want to take a week to transition the animal from one feed to the other. Read article “How to Safely Switch Lamb Feeds” for more details.