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Jon Knutson, Published June 04 2009

Livestock auctioneers to duel

If you enjoy the rhythmic chanting of livestock auctioneers, you’ll soon have a chance to listen to some of the best in North America.

The Fergus Falls (Minn.) Livestock Auction hosts the 46th annual World Livestock Auctioneer Championship on June 13.

Joe Varner owns the Fergus Falls business and played a crucial role in bringing the contest there.

“This is something I’ve wanted a long time,” Varner said.

The daylong contest caps the Livestock Marketing Association’s annual convention, which this year will be in Fargo starting June 11.

More than 1,000 auctioneers and livestock market owners and operators from across the country will attend.

The Kansas City, Mo.-based association conducts the annual contest to spotlight competitive marketing and the auctioneer’s role in the process, said John McBride, the association’s director of information.

Thirty-three auctioneers will compete in the championship.

They qualified through quarterfinal contests conducted late last year.

As part of the national contest, the 33 will be interviewed June 12, and judged on their response to questions involving industry issues and topics.

This interview will count for 25 percent of their score.

On the morning of June 13, the 33 will be judged as they sell cattle.

The judging criteria include the clarity of their chant, vocal quality, bid-catching ability and conduct of the sale, McBride said.

Last year’s event was held in the Sioux Falls, S.D., area, he said.

Varner, who started working in a livestock auction market when he was 9, today owns or is a partner in 15 livestock auctions in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. He proposed the Fergus Falls Livestock Auction as a candidate to host the contest because it’s centrally located and because the facility, built in 2002, is up to date and modern.

Varner said the annual contest has been held just once in Minnesota (in 1981 in St. Paul) and never in North Dakota.

He hopes the annual contest eventually can make a return trip to Fergus Falls, located about 60 miles southeast of Fargo-Moorhead.

“Someday I’d like to bring it back here, too,” he said.

If you go

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530