Thursday, August 18, 2022

Online trading thrives through covid

Bidr operator Jess Davies and national sales and operations manager Caitlin Barnett review the list of online buyers as they get ready to open online bidding for the Rangatira Angus mixed age cow and calf dispersal sale in March 2021.

More than 7000 farmers and 11 livestock agencies are using the online platform bidr to buy and sell, which has proven to be a much-needed technology for the times of travel disruption.

Covid-19 contact and travel restrictions have given online livestock sales a huge kick along, reducing stock movements and enabling buyers to participate from home.

The same is true of the MyLiveStock online platform, owned and operated by NZ Livestock (NZL), an Allied Farmers company.

NZL general manager Bill Sweeney said about 10% of all bids are now made online and in recent elite dairy cow sales as many as 75% of lots went to online buyers.

MyLiveStock was the first online platform to get started, has 8000 registered users and is the only strong alternative to bidr dominance of the industry, he said.

It does not charge the vendors any extra for the online dimension and recently introduced a mobile app which takes livestock purchases from the vendor’s farm to a nominated farm or paddock using the buyer’s preferred carrier.

The new app also contains the farmer’s sale and purchase history with the company.

MyLiveStock live streams at three sale yards, Frankton, Morrinsville and Stratford, and will be participating in bull sales this season throughout the regions NZL operates.

Weekly feature sales from seven sale yards are now live streamed on bidr, with more locations planned, and more than 80 hybrid bull sales will be covered this winter.

While hybrid sales are spaced out during the day and evening, feature sale yards can be operating at the same time in different locations and some bidr-registered buyers watch more than one.

Most recently dairy clearing sales went online and some wool sales have been featured.

The PGG Wrightson-owned bidr platform was launched three years ago at National Fieldays to be open to all livestock agencies, chief executive Stephen Guerin said.

“We are a traditional industry and initially there was concern about how online trading would work and whether it would be adopted by farmers.

“Covid forced us to change and now we see farmers are on board and comfortable with using the platform.”

Based at Ruakura, the bidr business team has nine staff members, five of whom are in the field to facilitate hybrid auctions – those traditional on-farm auctions that are also carried on bidr.

The Auctions-Plus platform in Australia was studied but it didn’t entirely suit the New Zealand situation, partly because of our relatively large proportion of livestock transactions from the dairy industry.

In the sale yard feature auctions now carried on bidr permanent broadband connections are used.

For the hybrid auctions on farms, bidr uses Spark technology linked back to the nearest cell phone tower with Jasper wireless connections for voice, video and data transmission simultaneously.

This has provided very good connectivity with near nil latency in districts that may not be adequately served by wire or wireless telephone and internet.

“We deliver bids from the floor and from the online network at the same time so the auction progress is not disjointed and nobody misses out,” he said.

Guerin would not say how much PGG Wrightson had spent on the bidr platform, only that it was open to other users from the start.

NZL is the only agency that has not joined.

Stud stock farmers pay a fee to have bidr at a hybrid auction but no additional fees are paid by farmers who consign to sale yards, or purchase online.

Financial transactions are done through the normal agency accounts with the NZ Stock and Station Agents Association obligations, conditions and margins.

Click-through pedigrees and EBVs are loaded along with pictures and/or videos of cattle and bidr provides preview marketing of the hybrid offerings, and electronic catalogues followed by the list of prices and outcomes.

All livestock in hybrid auctions are independently assessed to ensure that descriptions are accurate.

For sale yard consignments livestock is weighed and the weight averages displayed along with the price per head and the price per kilogram.

As each lot is sold the weight and price information builds the market picture for that day.

The proportions of online purchasing are about 10% of all lots at hybrid sales, between 20% and 25% in the live streamed sale yards and over 40% in dairy cattle sales.

Some breeders had opted for 100% online auctions, especially when covid movement restrictions were at their most stringent.

Guerin said the rapid growth of online transactions was happening alongside updating and rationalisation of joint-owned sale yards.

NZ Saleyards in Hamilton has been formed to manage the facilities better, including the employment of staff and access for suppliers.

The operating company is 75% PGG Wrightson and 25% Carrfields.

It covers the North Island at present, where sale yards are increasingly surrounded by homes and more congested roads, working on environmental and compliance matters.

The joint companies have spent $800,000 at Masterton and have work scheduled at Stortford Lodge, Dannevirke and in the Far North over the next year.

“Our sale yard responsibilities are growing and we need a professional structure to cope with that,” Guerin said.

“There will be fewer sale yards in future, but they will be properly resourced and able to deal with environmental requirements, animal welfare and human safeguards.

“They will have live streaming and be used more frequently, so the return on investment is sufficient.”

Australia was leading the way into online wool sales and machinery and farm clearing sales were a recent development, the first held in Waikato on May 27.

NZ is well advanced in livestock e-commerce when compared with Australia and the US, he said.

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