Multilingual auctioneering: South Africans impress and learn during Canadian trip

Photo Courtesy: Steven Mathews

It’s only hours after the Calgary Stampede’s International Livestock Auctioneer Championships have wrapped up and Steven and Gavin Mathews are talking up a storm alongside their fellow competitors at the evening reception.

It’s been a journey and a half, to say the least, to not only compete at the Calgary Stampede but to get to Canada.

The brothers from South Africa started their trek by winning their local competitions, which led to the sponsors, Veeplaas and Toyota, of the event giving them the choice to travel anywhere and compete.

After some consideration, the pair decided they wanted to travel across the world, compete at the Calgary Stampede and visit Alberta, touring the many sites as well as some ranching and feedlot operations in the process.

Here they were near the end of their adventure still full of energy, still connecting with other competitors, still learning as much as they could about Canadian culture and how auctioneering differs here, while passing on as much of their culture, lifestyle, and auctioneering style as they could at the same time.

Steven, who is from Lichtenburg, which is in the North West province of South Africa, says they had to adapt as they sell cattle differently in their country. 

“In South Africa, we sell everything by the head, so we weren’t selling anything by the pound like they do here, so that was a slight adaptation and we also have to sell bilingually as we have 11 official different languages so we’ll generally try and sell with at least two languages most often English and Afrikaans,” said Steven. 

Gavin, who is from Mooi River in the province of Kwazulu-Natal, started auctioneering only 18 months ago.

He says his brother convinced him to get into auctioneering.

Gavin says he enjoys selling in many different languages 

“Depending on where we are doing an auction, you’ll try and vary the language for a few of the different dialects and different

Photo Courtesy: Steven Mathews

languages primarily in South Africa, we’ll be doing a bit of English and a bit of Afrikaans, where I am, I’ll even throw a little bit of Zulu, which is the native language spoken in my province,” said Gavin.

Steven says they were both impressed with the high standard of competition at the Stampede.

“We were able to learn a lot and at the end of the day, we had to adapt a little bit as the selling style is different, the format is a little bit different, but we were able to adapt and we put on a decent show and able to learn a lot from the guys so it was great.”

Gavin says they wouldn’t have been able to make the trip without their sponsors.

“We’re very fortunate to be sponsored to travel to Canada by Veerplas and Toyota South Africa, they run one of the big livestock shows in South Africa called Alfa.”

The experience was so rewarding to both, they plan to be back at some point in the future to strike up another conversation and sell cattle with their new North American friends.