A nod and a wink

29th July 2011

"I love nothing more than selling in the middle of a busy market - it's like a day off for me and I really enjoy myself."

So says Cheshire-based livestock auctioneer Gwyn Williams who, when he's not ringside, spotting the buyers' nods, winks and blinks, spends the remainder of his working week liaising between prospective vendors and purchasers. "There's a lot of groundwork to be done if I'm going to get the best price for someone's stock.

"If I know that a breeder has 20 Hereford cross heifers, ready for bulling, to sell then I'll do some canvassing and contact a few beef producers with suckler herds who I think may be interested. Drumming up business is essential to ensure that the seller realises the best possible price for their livestock."

When he's not chatting on the phone or wielding his gavel, you'll find Gwyn at his desk behind a mountain of paperwork. "Admin isn't so enjoyable and I dislike unravelling 'red tape' and dealing with rules and regulations.

Gwyn says that there's much more to being an auctioneer than people imagine."We have animal welfare standards to maintain and we have to comply with health and safety regulations too - there's plenty to keep us busy when it's not market day."

As far as skills and qualifications go, a knowledge of livestock and agriculture is essential. "A farming background is an advantage - you need to know about what you're selling and also the wider industry. Practical experience is important and certainly helps when sorting out post-sale problems, like heifers sold supposedly in calf that are then found to be empty, bulls that won't 'perform', cows that are sold as having sound udders, only for the vendor to find that one quarter is blind."

Couple this experience with qualifications - such as the Livestock Auctioneers Association's distance learning course - and a passion for the job and you'll go far, according to Gwyn.

He says good salaries - between £30,000 and £35,000 - are there for experienced auctioneers in their 30s. "Many positions offer a basic salary plus commission. It really is one of those careers where the more you put in, the more you get out - both in terms of financial reward and job satisfaction."