What does a livestock auctioneer do?

Specializing in livestock auction can be a very rewarding career as an auctioneer in the livestock industries. Livestock auctioneers introduce the animals by assigned lot numbers, facilitate interest, and take bids. The sellers at livestock auctions are usually breeders and farmers. So are many of the bidders, though other agricultural professionals and non-professionals often take part.

And, aside from introducing each animal put up for sale and conducting the auction, a livestock auctioneer may perform the following duties:

  • Advertising auctions in publications, circular and media
  • Meeting with sellers before the auction to discuss sale items
  • Performing appraisals of the animals to calculate starting bids
  • Assigning lot numbers to the animals
  • Tagging the animals with identifying markers
  • Directing sellers to areas for animal holding
  • Pointing out the qualities and characteristics of the animal for sale, such as breed, age and weight
  • Entertaining the crowd and encouraging them to bid
  • Declaring winning bidders and directing them to the purchase site
  • Filling out any necessary paperwork or records for finalized sales

How to become a livestock auctioneer

You can follow these steps to pursue a career as a livestock auctioneer:

1. Complete your education

The most common minimum education requirement for livestock auctioneers is a high school diploma, with recommended coursework in related subjects such as agriculture, math, finance and/or business. A college degree typically isn’t required, but the auctioneer may benefit from the advanced livestock knowledge they might gain from an associate or bachelor’s degree in animal science.

2. Attend auctions

Observe how they are conducted. If possible, introduce yourself to the auctioneers and learn about them. Make sure to ask them questions.

3. Enroll at the Western College of Auctioneering

Many auction houses, merchants, and other hiring organizations prefer auctioneers who’ve graduated from an auction school. Our auction school provides you with specialized training and education in the job of an auctioneer. You can expect coursework in subjects such as bid calling, breathing techniques, filler words, elocution, marketing, appraisal, and business management.

Our livestock auctioneer training specifically covers the following areas of livestock auctions:

  • How to conduct a livestock auction
  • Effective livestock bid calling
  • Cutting edge online and technological components of the auction industry
  • Working with buyers and sellers
  • Laws pertaining to livestock auctions
  • Livestock contracts
  • Current market trends
  • Sale day operations
  • Livestock auctioneering terminology
  • Auction clerking and cashiering
  • How to market yourself as a livestock auctioneer
  • How to market your livestock auction business

4. Get apprenticed and licensed

Depending on where you live, you may need to undergo an apprenticeship and/or acquire a license to become an auctioneer. You may also have to pursue continuing education credits to maintain licensure. State and sometimes local governments are responsible for setting the regulations and the requirements for getting a license. Consult with your state’s licensing board or government to determine the process you must undergo, if any.

5. Work your way up from an assistantship

Auctioneers often begin their careers as an auctioneer’s assistant. An auctioneer may have one or several assistants to help during auctions. Assistants often help to transport animals to the auction block and even carry out auctioneer duties, such as directing winners to the purchase site, collecting payment and filling out paperwork. To find a position as an auctioneer’s assistant, consider applying to auction houses or contacting independent auctioneers. Assistant positions are also commonly listed in local publications and on job sites.

From there, you can work your way up with your employer to earn an opportunity to lead an auction. Alternatively, you can promote yourself as an independent auctioneer by contracting your services out to sale barns and auction companies. If you choose to operate as an independent contractor, you can build your reputation by starting at small auctions and advancing to larger opportunities.

Salary and job outlook for livestock auctioneers

Specific salary figures for livestock auctioneers aren’t available, but auction specialists, who perform a similar role, earn an average of $35,100 per year according to Indeed.com but range as high as $47,700.

The earning potential for livestock auctioneers depends on several factors. Many of them are independent contractors earning variable rates. Experienced auctioneers with good reputations are likely to command higher commissions and more-profitable jobs, while beginners can expect to earn less and take on less lucrative work. Though some organizations might hire auctioneers for salaried roles, many livestock auctioneers are independent contractors, hired by sellers or auction houses on a per-auction basis. Contracted livestock auctioneers normally receive a commission—a percentage of each sale or of total sales—so it’s in their interest to encourage higher bids. As an alternative or in addition to commission, a contracted auctioneer might receive one or several of the following compensations:

  • Buyer’s premium: This is a percentage added to the winning bid that goes go to the auctioneer.

  • Flat rate: Some auctioneers may negotiate for payment at a flat rate, ensuring they receive the agreed-upon amount regardless of gross sales at the auction.

  • Hourly wage: An hourly wage ensures that the auctioneer earns a specified amount per hour of work.

Livestock auctioneer skills

The following are some essential skills for livestock auctioneers:

Subject knowledge

A livestock auctioneer must be familiar with the animals they sell and the associated terminology. The auctioneer is responsible for introducing and marketing these animals. When pointing out characteristics, they should know what traits are desirable to buyers, what constitutes a highly rated trait and what words are commonly used to describe characteristics.


Organizational skills play an important part in ensuring that an auction proceeds well. Especially for independent auctioneers, it’s important to organize tasks and logistics beforehand. These include setting up the auction block and the purchase site and discussing procedures with their assistants. During the auction, too, they should be able to keep track of the lots, the animals up for auction and the bids given.

Appraising animals for sale requires inspecting the subjects for characteristics. The auctioneer should not only know what to look for but also be attentive to minute details. Identifying easy-to-miss traits relating to such factors as muscle tone, size and demeanor can lead to accurate appraisals before an auction and marketable descriptions during.


Auctioneers use communication skills for multiple aspects of their job. During an auction, verbal competencies such as elocution, speed and interacting with crowd members. Before auctions, auctioneers using written communication skills in advertising, promoting auction events in print and online.


Performance skills refer to the ability to entertain others. Entertainment plays an important role in auctions because it helps to keep the crowd engaged and excited. This helps to encourage higher bids, which normally means a higher commission for the auctioneer.

Auctions can also last many hours, so the auctioneer must maintain a high level of energy. Stamina ensures that they don’t exhaust themselves as they continuously work to excite the audience throughout the proceedings.

Business management

Because many livestock auctioneers are independent contractors, they would benefit from having business management skills. Being able to set a prudent budget and identify strategies for generating income can help an auctioneer remain in business and turn a profit. Another example is the talent for spotting and pursuing opportunities, which can help beginner auctioneers to gain work and build their reputation.

Why Choose WCA

At Western College of Auctioneering, our livestock auctioneering course is taught by world champion auctioneers and industry leaders who know and understand the industry, inside and out. Upon completion of our course, you will have a full understanding of how to conduct, manage and sell all niches of livestock at auction including purebred, sale barn, horse, sheep, hog, small animal, and cattle auctions.

Are you interested in attending an auctioneer school? Please use the following resources to learn more about auction school and the auctioneering industry. Or, learn more about our Entry Level or our Advanced Level auctioneering courses.