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Montana cattle auctioneer Roger Jacobs maintains reputation as top bid taker

Based out of Billings, Montana, Jacobs calls cattle auctions in states from California to New York and North Dakota to Texas. During the past 39 years Jacobs has auctioneered in 25 states and in Canada.

With a basketball hoop in the background, four people sit up on an auction block made of wood. A man in a cowboy hat and a white shirt is second from the right. A man in a baseball cap, white shirt and black vest is to the far right.
Auctioneer Roger Jacobs eyes the buyers at Ellingson Simmentals bull auction on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, while rancher Terry Ellingson gives an introduction.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

DAHLEN, North Dakota — Conversant about conformation, master of the chant and quick with a quip, Roger Jacobs has built a reputation as one of the best cattle auctioneers in the business.

Based out of Billings, Montana, Jacobs calls cattle auctions in states from California to New York and North Dakota to Texas. During the past 39 years Jacobs has auctioneered in 25 states and in Canada.

Jacobs typically calls 80 to 100 sales of a variety of cattle breeds annually. He specializes in purebred cattle and sales.

Jacobs developed an interest in being an auctioneer when he was a youngster following his dad around to sales barns.

“I always like listening to the auctioneers and thought it would be a fun thing to do,” he said.

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In 1975, after his graduation from North Dakota State University with a bachelor’s degree in animal science, Jacobs attended auctioneering school at Western College of Auctioneering in Billings.

Jacobs worked for the American Angus Association as a regional manager and field man from 1977 to 1983, then left that job to start Jacobs Livestock Sales in Billings. He also is part owner of Premier Land Co., where he sells real estate.

Auctioneer Roger Jacobs sits on an auction block while Tony Heinz takes bids.
Roger Jacobs calls the bull auction of Ellingson Simmentals on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, while Tony Heinz takes bids.
Ann Bailey/Agweek

Jacobs launched his 2022 cattle auction season in late January with sales in North Dakota. On Friday, Jan. 28, Jacobs was selling bulls at Ellingson Simmentals ranch near Dahlen. The next day, he was scheduled to be at a ranch near New England, North Dakota, 350 miles southwest of Ellingson Simmentals.

“When we finish up, it’s back up and hit the road, and be where you need to be the next day,” Jacbos said.

When he’s not driving to auctions or calling them, Jacobs is preparing for them. Studying the sale catalogs of the cows and bulls he will be selling and learning about their histories and pedigree helps him to get the price for the cattle. He also arrives at the auction early so he can see the cattle for himself.

Jacobs has been the auctioneer for Vollmer Angus Ranch’s annual bull sale near Wing, North Dakota, for about 30 years.

"He’s a great person to work with and he’s great at his job," said Troy Vollmer. “He works extremely well with the people in the crowd. He has a tremendous knowledge of the industry.

“The customers feel comfortable working with him because they know he’s a man they can trust,” he said.”No question he’s one of the very best, and one of the all-time best.”

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The highest price Jacobs has sold a bull for was $420,000, and the highest price he sold a cow for was $450,000, Jacobs said. The highest average sale was $30,000 per lot.

During a day, he sells from 60 to 300 lots. He typically sells one lot a minute, but if it’s a large sale, tries to sell two a minute.

“I’m one of the faster auctioneers in the business,” Jacobs said. "In this region of the country, we’re noted for selling cattle faster than a lot of places.”

Besides chanting fast and being well-prepared, Jacobs credits his success to his treatment of buyers and sellers.

“I treat everybody the same and treat people like I want to be treated,” Jacobs said. “I think that serves you very well in life, and also, the harder you work, the luckier you get, so (I) try and work hard and get up every day and keep charging.”

Jacobs annually drives about 65,000 to 100,000 miles to auctions and also spends “a fair amount of time” on airplanes flying to them, he said.

“If it’s over 700 miles, I will normally buy a ticket or charter a plane,” Jacobs said.

Two men in cowboy hats are laughing. One is standing on the floor and the other is sitting above him on an auction block.
Russ Danielson, left, shares a laugh with Roger Jacobs before Ellingson Simmentals bull auction held on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

“His voice is clear and they can understand him. That’s important, too,” said Russ Danielson, a retired NDSU professor and now an American Simmental Association education specialist.

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Danielson, who taught Jacobs when he attended NDSU, isn’t surprised that his former student is a sought-after auctioneer.

“He had an outgoing personality and he loved cattle, and consequently he has been very successful,” Danielson said.

That reputation has resulted in many ranchers booking him back, year after year.

“There are so many sales I go to now, I can call the people by name, and, of course, I’ve been around long enough that I can’t get away with anything. Everybody knows me and I’ve got to be on my best behavior all of the time,” Jacobs said with a grin.

Even after nearly four decades of auctioneering, every day of work is different and there still are some surprises at auctions, he said.

“You think you’re never going to see anything new, and something comes along that you never saw before,”Jacobs said. “Every day is different.

“It’s amazing. There are new experiences all of the time. You never stop learning.”

He also knows that he should expect the unexpected.

“I’ve had cattle in the auction block with me. I had a bull jump the auction block and knock me out, and I’ve lost my sense of smell, as a result of that, 10 years ago,” Jacobs said.

Through it all, he strives to remain calm.

“You don’t have any choice. You have to charge on,” he said.

Calling livestock auctions, though, sometimes perilous, is what he wants to keep doing.

“I enjoy it as much as I ever have,” Jacobs said. “It’s been a fun ride, no question about it.”

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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