Livestock marketing co-operative Meadow Quality has unveiled a new on-line auction system that it says will offer sheep farmers an alternative marketing outlet.

The on-line deadweight auction launched last Friday with a catalogue of 2600 old and new season lambs.

The firm hopes the system will combine the straightforwardness of deadweight selling with the competition of the liveweight sector.

Commercial manager Simon Phelps said the scheme had benefits for both abattoirs and farmers.

“Buyers have the opportunity to purchase large numbers of lambs quickly, on a deadweight basis.

The Friday auction sells lambs in real-time encouraging Sunday collection and Monday slaughter – something abattoirs can’t get from livestock markets.

“Farmers can set a reserve price and are under no obligation to sell.

They save the cost of transporting their sheep to market, but still benefit from the auction system because deadweight buyers have to compete.”

Meadow Quality had developed its own EUROP grid, as all abattoirs and processors used different systems, Mr Phelps said.

In most cases, fieldsmen visited farms to assess lambs’ specifications, so buyers could rely on a fair online description.

A realistic starting bid was set by Meadow Quality.

“At our first auction last week we sold hoggets to 285p/kg deadweight with R2 and 3Ls averaging 282p/kg.

New season lambs peaked at 317p/kg, levelling at 312p/kg,” he said.

The project was inspired by recent abattoir closures in the south west, but was open to farmers across the country, said Mr Phelps.

“Last week we marketed lambs from Devon and Lincolnshire.”

Visit www.meadowq.co.uk for further details