Beef Expo Big Draw For County

Sale At Fairgrounds Brings In $101,005

Posted: April 24, 2013

Colton Nunley, 3, watches the annual cattle auction with his father, Cory, at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds on Friday. The Nunleys, from Tazewell, attended the Virginia Beef Expo. (Photos by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
Auctioneers Mike Jones (left) and Jason Pratt work the annual cattle sale during the Virginia Beef Expo on Friday at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds. Cattlemen and farmers gathered from around the state and beyond to buy and sell livestock at the auction.
Chris Wojo calls out for a bid back to the auctioneer at Friday’s cattle auction.
HARRISONBURG — After months of preparation, the sale of a $3,000 cow goes by in just a few loud, intense seconds.

During those moments, the cow searches for any way out of the small cage that keeps it from the dozens of people judging its outward appearance and the specs laid out in the booklet they’re clutching.

The animal moos as a relatively few bidders take turns raising their hands, signifying a desire to purchase the animal — and in the process, kicking off a rapid-fire chain of events.

First, one of three ringmen standing around the small cage lets out a startling howl. That in turn leads to a change in the auctioneer’s staccato chant, which fills the room with a steady song thanks to four loudspeakers flanking the stage. The numbers in the repetitious speech suddenly rise with the help of the ringman’s extra pair of eyes on the ground.

“Two and a quarter, two and a half,” the cowboy hat-wearing auctioneer yells in between filler words and strong encouragement as hands begin to rise sporadically throughout the crowd.

Before the untrained spectator knows it, the cow has been sold and another tagged animal is waltzing around the ring.

And so goes the tale of multiple cattle sales that occurred during the Virginia Beef Expo Friday, a weekend-long event that draws people from around the country to the Rockingham County Fairgrounds every year.

Jerry Gustin, of Gloucester, sold a cow/calf pair and three heifers at the 24th annual Virginia Angus Association Genetic Investment Sale, one of seven cattle sales held Friday.

The sale, in which about 30 cattle were sold, in addition to bovine embryos and rare bull semen, grossed $101,005.
“They had a little bit of everything,” Gustin said of the sale.

Gustin, of Gustin Land & Cattle, has been going to the expo since 1991 and has participated in the Angus sale every year since 2000. He says the expo is a boon to the local economy, ticking off examples of the items he’s purchased in the area since coming to the event, including livestock-handling equipment and a new car for his daughter.

Mike Jones, a professional auctioneer who lives in Georgia but grew up in Forest, has been working for the Angus sale at the expo for the past 18 years.

“We used to come to Harrisonburg and sell cattle when I was a kid,” he said.

Jones attended Superior Auction School in Decatur, Ill., where he learned the theories and principles behind the business of chanting.

“When somebody says, ‘How did you learn,’ it’s lots of practice,” he said. “You learn by doing.”

He emphasized that auctioneering involves more than just talking quickly; he has to know everything about the cattle he’s trying to sell — pedigree, genetics, value. Jones has been to the Harrisonburg sale so many times, he even knows which cattle and products some of the bidders will likely try to buy, making it easier to decipher between a raise of the hand and a scratch of the nose.

He called Friday’s sale very active, noting the large crowd.

Said Jones: “Everything’s got a new home.”

Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or

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