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40 Year Milestone For Auctioneer Derek

August 2023

The gift of the gab is as essential as a gavel for any talented auctioneer and Derek Biss FRICS FAAV can boast both – clocking up 40 years on the rostrum this weekend.

He began his career selling calves at Taunton Market four decades ago – telling bosses at WRJ Greenslade & Co – the forerunners to Greenslade Taylor Hunt that he was an experienced auctioneer.

However, the stock he had been selling at Kettering was cabbage and eggs rather than livestock, but these skills proved eminently transferrable.

He watched Keith Amor, the chief auctioneer, in action, and after an hour-and-a-half, Derek, 24, was asked to step up to the rostrum.

Keith must have felt the sale was in safe hands because he headed off to the pub, returning after Derek had completed the last sale.

“I was lucky I had been to the market with my father. I just needed the patter,” explained Derek, who grew up on his family’s dairy farm in Castle Cary.

He knew many of the faces in the crowd and now, 40 years on, he sells to their children and even grandchildren. The numbers of farmers may be down as dairy herds decline, but those that are successful now tend to operate bigger concerns.
The principles of auctioneering have not changed over the years.

“I am pleased to say it has stood the test of time. It is still the most successful route to selling livestock,” said Derek, who now heads up the farm sales department at Sedgemoor Auction Centre.

Breeding stock remains in high demand. Farmers looking to replace dairy cattle want to be able to see what they are buying in the flesh and it is the best way to achieve a top price.

The market continued to operate throughout the Covid crisis as an essential business – and the challenges of that period saw a surge in technological advances.

Marteye – an online buying platform was introduced so those wary of attending in-person or unable to because of Covid restrictions could still participate.

This technology has been retained post-pandemic and offers flexibility to buyers. Now a prospective purchaser can view prior to auction, go home and milk and then bid online from the comfort of their home.
Computers have also speeded up working practices – market day would typically start at 7am and finish around 8.30pm with writing out cheques and the market report. This is now generated by machine.

Derek has no plans to step back from his auctioneering role. He still gets the same adrenalin rush as he did the first-time he took up his gavel.

“It’s a wonderful career – the camaraderie and the fun. It’s a great life.

“As long as I have my eyesight and voice I’ll keep going,” said Derek.

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