How to sell stock in an uncertain world

// Business Management

Agribusiness consultant Rob Macnab from Total Ag outlines alternative stock selling platforms in the wake of the closure of saleyards due to the COVID-19 response.

Beef stock

Five years ago, we had never heard of M Bovis and five months ago we had never heard of Covid-19. How these two diseases have changed our farming lives!

As we have learnt to manage our farming activities, we will learn and adapt to deal with both the short-term and long-term restrictions around Covid 19.

One of the first impacts was the closing of saleyards across the country. Not only have they been the traditional method of farmer to farmer sale, they also provided a social interaction of like-minded people that were a conduit of mirth, leg pulling and community connectedness. Temporarily we have lost that, but it will return, and we will innovate other occasions.

But firstly, business needs to continue. So what channels are available now to still transact business, before we invent new ones?

Thankfully, there are methods that already exist, and now will be the time to learn more about them, as we will surely be using them more in the future.

For many the first port of call will be your agent. Trusted members of any farm team, they have adapted to new farm systems, new products (remember when bull beef came on board) and have valuable contacts across farming.

They will still be able to transact business for you, albeit not through the saleyards. You will have to ask more searching questions and ask them to provide further information (photos, videos and evidence of weights). All parties are well used to this so this will not be a burden to most. And anyway, make the most of those free lodgers that you have parked up for the next four weeks (talking about the kids!).

There is also now a plethora of on line platforms (auction houses) that are up and running.

Here are a few of them:

There are some subtle differences between the platforms, which will suit some but not others.

My Livestock (now the saleyards are closed) and Ag Online are more notice boards, that is they advertise stock for sale or wanted. If you browse their apps or websites, there will be a range of livestock available for sale. If you are interested in listing your stock or buying then you will be put in contact with an agent, and they will arrange a listing that is available for all registered farmers to view. The listing will also go around the company’s agents, so they can also sell on your behalf.

StockX operates very similar to Trademe, with live online auctions over a number of days. You have the ability to ask questions of the seller and view where the bids are at, and what the reserve is. There is also a buy now feature. Fees are 2.5% for the seller, which compares very favourably with established saleyards.

Bidr is an online real-time virtual saleyards operated by an independent company, owned by PGG Wrightson. Since the saleyards have closed they have made it available to all companies to utilise. The charge is $6/hd per cattle beast and $0.80/hd for sheep. The companies will do the transaction on your existing account and there will be a commission based upon negotiation with that company.

This system is similar to a sale yard, just online. The auctions will run for 3-5 minutes with a clock reset, so all parties know how long they have to place another bid. The key benefit is the transfer is farm to farm, saving money on transport and lessening the risk of Covid-19 community transfer.

PGG Wrightson were in the process of accrediting agents to be able to list stock for sale but have waived that now as Covid-19 restrictions came in. Nine independent companies (including Carrfields) have signed up for Bidr.

As with everyone online, you will need to register for all sites to participate. That is now a given in today’s world, so I suggest you sign up for a couple of sites and observe them over the next few weeks.

Another way of selling is the old-fashioned method of offering them to those in your circle of contacts that you know would be interested. It is surprising how many traditional saleyards transactions occur between the same parties year after year.

It will be a brave new world that we move into but let’s not lose what we have previously valued. For a lot of farmers, going to the sale is part of their traditional social interactions. It will start again; we just need to have a break for now. But those ladies and gentlemen who regularly went to Te Kuiti, Frankton and Tuakau are missing out now. If you know any of them, flick them a message, take a few minutes to call as they will be missing their farming talk. Also, it will work in your favour, they have a wealth of knowledge and a repertoire of jokes that will brighten not only your day, but theirs as well.

We can all do our bit.

Find out more

Listen to our Breakfeed podcast with Rob Macnab of TotalAg on the topic of selling livestock when the saleyards are closed. Rob joins us to discuss some of the options out there to sell stock online, and discusses their finer points.