When Andrew Sherratt was finishing up his studies at Lincoln University he wasn’t certain what career pathway he would take.
But with the prestigious New Zealand Stock and Station Agents’ Association (NZSSAA) Young Auctioneer trophy in hand, he is convinced he eventually made the right decision.
In one of the closest contests yet, Sherratt headed off the seven finalist contestants in the ninth annual 2020 Heartland Bank Young Auctioneer competition held at Canterbury Agricultural Park.
While the overarching NZ Agricultural Show was cancelled due to covid-19, some sections were able to continue, including the show’s prime cattle section.
It was these prize stock that were sold as part of the Canterbury Park weekly prime cattle sale by the Heartland Bank Young Auctioneer contestants in their competition that is also normally held as part of the overall show.
“It’s a pretty special competition to win in this industry, especially for us upcoming auctioneers,” Sherratt said.
Sherratt, 29, grew up on a sheep, beef, and deer farming property near Geraldine.
He never really aspired to be a farmer.
“I really had no desire to be a farmer, I didn’t think farming was for me,” he said.
On completing his university studies he weighed up his options.
“A couple of friends were going into the (livestock) industry, I thought I’d give it a crack too,” he said.
“I secured a good start and it’s all just kept progressing for me from there.”
Sherratt’s foray into the industry in 2014 was with PGG Wrightson.
“I was doing my first selling at the Tinwald sale yards, (and) I had Richard Ashworth as my mentor, they really were a great company to train with.”
But after two years, his representative hockey career took priority and Sherratt headed overseas.
Andrew Sheratt says the Young Auctioneer competition is a pretty special to win, especially for upcoming auctioneers.
“I played hockey in France for a couple of years, (and) had a bit of a look around at the same time, it was a good experience,” he said.
Sherratt returned to NZ and back into the livestock selling industry, this time with Hazlett Livestock, based with the company’s Mid and South Canterbury team.
Selling at the Temuka prime and store cattle sales became a regular responsibility for Sherratt.
“I have been fortunate to again get a good opportunity to move ahead with my aspirations in auctioneering, and selling at the Temuka sales has given me a lot of experience and confidence,” he said.
He acknowledged his key mentors Hazlett livestock manager Ed Marfell and Phil Manera.
“They are aspirational. I look at Ed and Phil and think one day I’d like to be as good as them,” he said.
Sherratt believes the past three years have probably been some of the toughest ever in the industry.
“Being young in the industry at the moment, we have been through drought, hit by Mycoplasma bovis and then covid,” he said.
“I feel like I’ve had a real hardening in the industry over the past three years, but hopefully through the worst and it will be greener on the outside now.”
The Young Auctioneer competition aims to showcase and develop up and coming young auctioneers to improve the standard of NZ’s next generation of livestock auctioneers.
The competition is supported by Heartland Bank and run by the Canterbury A&P show cattle committee.
The competitors are judged on both individual interviews and their auctioneering performance.
Prior to the auctioneering section, the contestants were interviewed by the three-strong judging panel, including a test on auction rules, industry knowledge and a test on selling.
A second-time entrant, Sherratt says he learned from his first crack at the title.
“I was a bit green the first time, I’ve had more experience and got a lot more confident since then, that’s what helped me this time.”
Just three points behind Sherratt, in second place was another second-time contestant, Karl Chitham, from the Carrfields Waikato livestock team.
Cameron Gray, working for PGW in South Canterbury, finished third.
Coming in first, Sherratt took away the NZSSAA trophy and a $2000 travel prize, which will get him to the 2021 Sydney Royal Show to attend the Australian Auctioneers’ Association Young Auctioneer where he will have the opportunity to sell as an exhibitor – covid pending.
“That will be a great experience if it can come off,” he said.
He was also awarded the Denis Hazlett Medal, presented in memory of an industry icon who had a special interest in encouraging and supporting young people in the industry.
“It is pretty special to be wearing the Denis Hazlett (Memorial) Medal on my Hazlett shirt,” he said.
“The whole competition stands well for us young auctioneers to gain confidence and pick up opportunities and it’s thanks to the industry supporters and competition organisers for that,” Sherratt said.
One of those organisers is competition founder Mick Withers of Rural Livestock who has coordinated every one of the nine annual competitions to date.
Back in the 90s Withers was nominated as an up-and-coming auctioneer to auction against the New South Wales champion.
“He came here to NZ, he made me look like a bush auctioneer, he was so good,” he said.
“I decided we needed to work on something in NZ for young auctioneers.
“We needed to improve the standard of our up-and-coming young people in the auctioneering circles,” Withers said.
It was 15 years later when Withers joined the cattle committee of the Canterbury A&P Association that he realised the opportunity.
“This was the time to establish it and give young guys something to train for with exposure as a competition at the show.
“It was an incentive to do better and it has lifted the standard of young auctioneers right from the competition and onwards.
“They are more confident and the exposure they get from the competition has opened huge opportunities, even just to the winner selling in Sydney, but there’s much more too in the local industry,” he said.
“The competition has certainly met my expectation; the big thing is the quality of selling from these young guys is quite amazing and that is very pleasing.”