Going once, twice, sold! St. Jacobs auctioneer aims to be national chant champ

Bill Haalstra, who is normally heard auctioning livestock in St. Jacobs, is taking part in the annual Canadian Livestock Auctioneer Championship, being held Friday in Lloydminster, Sask.

'The basic chant make it sound like you're going fast,' Bill Haalstra says

Bill Haalstra at a competition in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. (Submitted by the Livestock Marketing Association Championship)

Bill Haalstra is known for speaking quickly.

The auctioneer and livestock trucker, who spends his time between the Ontario Livestock Exchange in St. Jacobs and David Carson Farms and Auction in Perth County, is set to take his talent for turbo talking to the Annual Canadian Livestock Auctioneer Championship, being held Friday in Lloydminster, which borders Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Haalstra, who says he is a self-taught auctioneer, has taken part in the competition for the last 15 years. In 2017 judges noticed a change in his style and he came away with the most improved auctioneer at the event.

The art of auctioning cattle at a livestock exchange isn't just about speaking at a high rate of speed, referred to as the auction chant, he says. It also includes keeping an eye on the bids coming in and knowing the livestock you're trying to sell.

"When you're putting those numbers together like that and using those short little filler words in between it, it gives you a chant," Haalstra said.

"The chant is kind of rapid, I guess, for some auctioneers. Some don't use as much of a chant. So they just use the numbers. But I think it's just because you're just popping numbers out that it sounds like you're going so fast."

He says on a busy day, auctioneers can move out 125 cattle in an hour but some days it take longer as farmers dwell on what they want to spend their money on.

He says the judges at the national championship will be listening to "the rhythm of your chant and the way you present yourself. Your ability to get the most for the livestock that you're auctioning and not missing any bids."

He'll compete with 37 other auctioneers from across the country. They'll be selling 4,000 livestock during the competition while being watched by a panel of five judges at the Livestock Markets Association of Canada annual convention.