FARM BEAT: Two local residents in auction contest

jholland@modbee.comJune 7, 2013 

    alternate textJohn Holland
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: Agriculture, Turlock; local news editor on Sundays
    Bio: John Holland has been a reporter at The Bee for 12 years. He has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and previously worked at the Union Democrat in Sonora and the Visalia Times-Delta.
    Recent stories written by John

My job as a reporter demands that I understand what people are saying about a certain topic.

Except when I cover the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship. These folks talk far too fast for me to understand, but the judges know what they are saying, and that's all that matters.

The 50th annual event will take place June 15 in Montgomery, Ala., with a $5,000 first prize at stake. Two of the 32 entrants are from our area — Chuck Cozzitorto of Hilmar and Garrett Jones of Los Banos.

The competition tests professional auctioneers on vocal clarity, bid-catching ability and other traits as they seek buyers for cattle paraded in front of them. They also are interviewed on their knowledge of livestock marketing.

Much of the beef industry is high-tech these days, but the contest organizers say old-fashioned auctions still are useful in the "price discovery" that goes on at livestock markets.

I covered the event when it came to Escalon in 2006 and Turlock last year. It was fun watching the auctioneers — dressed in sports coats, neckties and cowboy hats — show off their skills in stuffy arenas packed with rambunctious cattle.

Participants told me about the various styles, such as a California version described as "quick" and "smooth." Auctioneers use "fill words" to keep up the rhythm as they call out the rising prices offered by bidders.

The contest is sponsored by the Livestock Marketing Association, based in Kansas City, Mo. The competitors qualified at regional events.

Cozzitorto, who is sponsored by the Turlock Livestock Auction Yard, made the national event with a top-10 finish at the Davenport, Wash., regionals.

So did Jones, who is sponsored by the Fresno Livestock Commission, Dos Palos Y Auction Yard and Producers Livestock Marketing Association.

You can watch the championship live on RFD-TV from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Go to to see where to find this channel devoted to all things rural.

Unfortunately, I will not be in Montgomery for the event. The Bee did travel to the South for a recent championship involving a local product, but it was a quarterback who tosses a pigskin rather than guys who auction cattle.

We do have a chance to see auctioneers in action at some upcoming events around here. I'm talking about county fairs, where 4-H and FFA members sell the animals they raised and, if you are generous enough with your bids, recover their costs.

Have an idea for the Farm Beat? Contact John Holland at or (209) 578-2385.

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