Growing up on a family farm in Canterbury sowed the seeds for Henry Miller’s interest in the agriculture sector.
In his fifth crack at the contest, Miller, 24, was crowned New Zealand Young Auctioneer 2023, heading off a record field of competitors to take the win.
After leaving school and starting his BCom studies, it didn’t take long before he worked out that wasn’t what he wanted to do.
“I did six weeks at university and worked out it wasn’t for me.”
As an aside to his studies he had taken up the opportunity through his uncle to help pen up at the Coalgate saleyards. “A trainee job came up and my uncle suggested I give it a go. That was the start.”
Miller became one of the Hazlett team, working as a livestock trainee starting out as a booking clerk.
“Once I got the opportunity to start auctioneering, I became quite attracted to it and very soon worked out that I quite like this part of the job.
“Initially I was selling the fat ewes at Coalgate.”
Now five years into the game, a move south to Kurow has broadened horizons and opened further opportunities.
“Once I got to Kurow I had the opportunity to sell at the Temuka sales. It certainly was a different perspective and one that grew my game and confidence to sell big yards of cattle.
“It was a big change from Canterbury, all new country, new people, new community, it all fell into place for me.
“I enjoy being part of the team and developing relationships with farmers and others within the industry.
“Sale day is an opportunity to keep in the know of the market, who is buying and selling and what.”
Winning the coveted Young Auctioneer title is a mission accomplished for Miller.
“I have learnt a lot and gained a lot of experience from the first couple of years. Selling at the Temuka gave me the confidence and experience to really get serious about winning.
“The more time I spent auctioneering the more I realised this is a big competition to win, it may have taken five years but every year was a lot of fun and each time I learnt more and it was more competitive than ever this year with 13 of us in it.”
The learning doesn’t stop there for Miller, who is looking forward to his trip to Sydney as part of his prize haul.
“There’s always things to learn, you never know it all and striving to get better, to be the best I can be for my clients, is always a goal and good for the people I work with.”
As well as the NZ Stock and Station Agent’s Association trophy and the Denis Hazlett Medal, Miller as the champion also gets the opportunity to exhibit his skills at the Royal Sydney Easter Show 2024, before a crowd of about 2500 people.
So come March, Miller will head across the Tasman to auctioneer as an exhibitor at the Sydney Royal.
“That experience has been on my mind for a couple of years so I am looking forward to it.”
Miller has a passion for the outdoors and when he’s not at the rostrum pulling the bids, he’s out and about enjoying a spot of hunting and fishing.
Young Auctioneer competition founder and co-ordinator Mick Withers says the field was the biggest yet in the 12 years of the contest.
The competition aims to showcase and develop up and coming young auctioneers to improve the standard of NZ’s next generation of livestock auctioneers.
“It gives them a reason to work towards getting themselves out there doing it and improving their skills. Everyone likes a bit of competition and that builds confidence and improvement.
“The standard of auctioneering over the 12 years has seen notable improvement,” Withers says.
The 13-strong line-up was a record this year with talented young auctioneers coming from across NZ.
Contestants must be under the age of 30. They are required to demonstrate ability, first in an interview to test communication skills and knowledge of the terms and conditions relating to livestock auctioneering, then in a practical live auction.
In the live auction the contestants tested their skills in the selling of three pens of prime cattle. Sheep were not included in the contest this year given the time constraints and the large number of contestants.
The competition is held in conjunction with the Canterbury A&P and coincides with the prime beef section of the show.
Withers has co-ordinated every one of the 12 competitions, with a personal experience behind his idea to establish the contest.
Back in the 1990s 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.
“I decided we needed to work on something in NZ for young auctioneers.
“We needed to improve the standard of our young people in the auctioneering circles.”
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.”
This year’s judging panel consisted of Geoff Wright, Greg Cook and Donald Cooke, who report the standard to be “very good”.
“The top six or seven in particular stood out but overall we were impressed with the standard, consistency and ability of all contestants,” Wright says.
Alex Horn from PGG Wrightson, Canterbury took out second place with Karl Chitham from Carrfields, North Waikato finishing third.
Major sponsor Heartland Bank was joined this year by the NZ Stock and Station Agents’ Association, which put up cash prizes for the place-getters.
The top three young auctioneers each received a Bushback jacket. The contest was also supported by the Carlton Bar and Restaurant.
In a programme reciprocal with Sydney, Justin Rhode from Nutrient Ag in Queensland auctioneered as an exhibitor at the contest to showcase Australian auctioneering, as Miller will do for NZ in Sydney.
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