World champion livestock auctioneer comes to P.A.

Matt Gardner
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Area livestock producers who regularly attend cattle auctions had a chance to see the best of the best this week.

World livestock auctioneer champion Dustin Focht served as both judge and guest auctioneer at a heifer show and sale that took place on Thursday at Heartland Livestock Services.

“We had a pen of five bred heifer show and I was honoured that I was asked to do that -- had a great time,” Focht said.

“I got to see some of Prince Albert’s finest as far as livestock producers are concerned and brought some really, really good heifers to town and got an opportunity to judge those and got to meet great people.”

Focht won top prize last June in the annual auctioneering contest organized by the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), which took place this year in Montgomery, Alabama.

As reigning champion of what he calls “the Super Bowl of auctioneering,” Focht is tasked with promoting livestock marketing, the role of the LMA and the importance of local livestock markets across Canada and the United States.

“I’ve got the great fortune of travelling around and seeing areas that a lot of us don’t get the opportunity to see and to promote our way of life -- promote how incredibly important livestock markets are, not only economically to communities but to producers as well,” Focht said. “So (it’s) a great honour.”

A native of Oklahoma, Focht first began auctioneering in 1998 after spending several years in Chicago working in the advertising business.

Deciding that he wished to return home and reclaim his roots (Focht’s grandfather was a lifelong auctioneer), the future titleholder honed his abilities by working with 1974 world champion livestock auctioneer Ralph Wade.

After two days under Wade’s wing, Focht entered his first live sale the following week and quickly fell in love with auctioneering.

He credits his victory in the LMA world championship to hard work and extensive practicing in order to develop the myriad of skills competitive auctioneers are judged on.

“What we do as auctioneers is create momentum and create enthusiasm for whatever product that we’re marketing,” Focht said.

“That contest is judged solely on knowledge of the industry, your bid-catching ability, your clarity, your voice control, rapport that you have in and amongst the buyers and sellers -- and also a main criteria for judges is to look at would they hire that particular auctioneer for their business or their sale.”

I’ve got the great fortune of travelling around and seeing areas that a lot of us don’t get the opportunity to see and to promote our way of life. Dustin Focht

As a livestock auctioneer, Focht takes bids by speaking in a rapid-fire manner while never sacrificing clarity for speed.

For Focht, the most appealing aspect of livestock auctioneering is the rapport one develops with the sellers.

“We’re actually working for their livelihood,” he said. “They can trust us with a great deal.

“In many cases that’s their income or their livelihood for the year, so when you look at that … you realize the trust factor and how honoured we are that those folks do bring those cattle to us to allow us the opportunity to work for them.”

“It can be as quick as a minute or two and that’s their yearly income,” he added. “So it’s a very, very honourable situation and we really take it to heart and really, really are blessed to be able to do it.”

Focht’s P.A. appearance coincided with Customer Appreciation Day at Heartland Livestock Services, during which the company served up hamburgers and hotdogs for guests.

Manager Glen Smith characterized turnout at the day’s “Bred Cow Extravaganza” as fairly impressive.

“We were doing quite a few things that day,” Smith said. “We had customer service and we had the world champion, we had some real good cattle in here -- so a little bit of everything.

“I think people really enjoyed that, and I haven’t seen the parking lot that full probably for … five or six years, because usually people send the cattle and they don’t come and watch. Everybody’s so busy. But I see it happening that way now a little bit.”

Following his appearance at the heifer show and sale, Focht was set to fly back home to attend a livestock sale the following day in Woodward, Oklahoma.

The champion described his first trip to Prince Albert in glowing terms.

“One thing about Canadians, regardless of what province I’ve been to -- Alberta and British Columbia and now Saskatchewan … every time you cross the border, the hospitality here’s unbelievable,” Focht said.

“So I’ve had a ball and can’t wait to come back.”

Organizations: Livestock Marketing Association, Heartland Livestock Services

Geographic location: Prince Albert, Woodward, Oklahoma, Montgomery, Alabama Canada United States Chicago Alberta British Columbia Saskatchewan

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