Auctioneer promotes industry
Will Epperly of Dunlap, Iowa was crowned the 2022 World Livestock Auctioneer Championship title at the 58th annual competition held at the Shipshewana Auction & Trading Place in Shipshewana, Ind. The competition was presented by the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA). For the third-generation auctioneer, the livestock industry is not only his way of life, but his passion.
“I was lucky enough to grow up in this business,” he shares. “My father Albert Epperly and grandfather Frank Epperly built a livestock auction in 1986 in Moneta, Virg., and we ran the barn in 2004.”
Epperly was destined to become an auctioneer, but his true inspiration came from watching the 1974 World Champion Ralph Wade when he was seven years old on Superior Livestock Auction.
“I had turned around to my grandfather that day and I told him, I want to be a world champion,” he explains. “I want to be like Ralph and three days later, I found myself up behind the mic at our livestock auction.”
Growing up, Epperly recalled many opportunities blossoming into life-long connections and relationships. To him, being an auctioneer is more than just a man behind a mic, it’s about building friendships, he notes.
In 2008, he met the 2008 Livestock Auctioneer World Champion Matt Lowery and was given the opportunity to work under him in Burwell, Neb.
“Matt will say he didn’t do much,” Epperly jokes. “But he built a lot of confidence in me. I’ve got to learn from many people within this industry and through the LMA.”
The year 2022 marked Epperly’s 12th time competing in the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship competition.
He notes there are three qualifiers held throughout the U.S. – in the East, West and Midwest.
“You will go to one of those barns and you will draw your number and sell eight drafts of livestock,” he explains. “You’re judged on clarity, bid catching ability, conduct of the sale, knowledge of the product and hireability. The scores are then tabulated and the top 10 will move on to the world championship competition held in conjunction with the LMA National Convention.”
At the national convention, Epperly not only competed in the auctioneer portion of the competition, but he also interviewed for the position.
“The interview is worth 25 percent of your total score and we all get asked the same three questions at random,” he shares. “We then get to sell eight drafts of livestock, scores are tabulated and the top 10 are announced.”
Being in the top 10 is when each auctioneer gets to showcase his skills and style, he notes.
At this year’s competition, Justin Dodson of Welch, Okla., earned Reserve Champion honors, and Jacob Massey from Petersburg, Tenn., was named Runner-Up Champion.
Other top 10 finalists were Eric Drees, Caldwell, Idaho; Dean Edge, Rimbey, Alberta, Canada; Steve Goedert, Dillon, Mont.; Wade Leist, Boyne City, Mich.; Sixto Paiz, Portales, N.M.; Jake Parnell, Sacramento, Calif. (High Score Interview); Barrett Simon, Rosalia, Kan. (Rookie of the Year).
Epperly jokes it was only a matter of time before he took home the title.
“As I’ve put it, I’ve been Miss Congeniality in the world three times – 2017, 2019 and in 2021 when I was third in the world. This year, I happily jumped up into the number one spot, skipping second,” Epperly jokes.
As the champion, Epperly will spend time traveling the country, sharing his auctioneering skills, advocating for the industry and acting as a public relations person for the livestock marketing industry and LMA. He will remain stateside but has several upcoming trips planned.
In the coming few weeks, he will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to have conversations with lawmakers about topics not only affecting livestock auctions, but also the cow/calf operator.
“We’re trying to not only be voices for livestock markets, but we’re voices for the cow/calf man, the backgrounder and independent feeder as well – this is where LMA comes in – they are the voice of the people that don’t have time to go get their voice,” he mentions.
Other notable stops will include Virginia, Florida, Texas and California.
“I’ll get to travel all over the country this year,” he says. “But, I won’t be just a man behind a mic, but will be an advocate for this industry.”
Next competition and convention
For future contestants of the competition, Epperly offers some words of advice saying, “Never be complacent with what your chant is doing,” he says. “Never say this is the best I can get. Always be willing to learn new things or try new things in your chant.”
“Always remember, this is a people business,” he adds. “Don’t just be the man behind the mic, be the man that can go out and sort cattle, load cattle and consign cattle. The moment I took the step to be more than the man behind the mic, I think that was the biggest thing to help me in this contest. You meet some of the greatest people in this industry.”
“Every auctioneer that gets behind the mic is working the best they can for the consigner,” he concludes. “We’re the people bringing the buyer and seller together, and we’re there to work for the seller that day – to bring the best price we can get for the cattle that day.”
The 2023 LMA Annual Convention and World Livestock Auctioneer Championship is scheduled for June 7-10, 2023. The convention will be held in Punta Gorda, Fla, and the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship will be held at the Arcadia Stockyards in Arcadia, Fla.
Further details are yet to be determined, but more information can be found at lmaweb.com.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.