2 November 2001

Old and new combine in Sim event

By John Burns

South-west correspondent

THE British Simmental Cattle Society is combining modern computer and internet technology with the skills and knowledge of traditional livestock auctioneers for its main bull sale this year.

Foot-and-mouth has prevented all but two of the normal 15 UK-wide live auctions of Simmentals this year, and although many bulls have been sold privately it has become clear that without an auction system better bulls are proving difficult to price.

"Because of F&M we needed an auction system that did not involve gathering significant numbers of people together in one place, but we still wanted to use the auctioneers knowledge of the breed and its breeders, their expertise in valuing and negotiating deals, and of course their established rules on warranties, payment and so on," says breed secretary Roger Trewhella.

The solution was provided by Exmoor-based Shearwell Data, which produced a custom-built web-site on which the society could present not only a comprehensive catalogue of 50 bulls for sale, but also a bidding system.

Up to three photographs are provided for each bull and Mr Trewhella feels that they will enable potential buyers to draw up shortlists more easily than from a normal paper catalogue, and so will need to make fewer farm visits to inspect bulls – good for increased biosecurity.

But buyers without internet facilities can still take part, he points out. They can obtain a paper catalogue from the breed society, or make use of a local auctioneers internet facilities.

Bids are made through the schemes appointed auctioneers, either United Auctions or Harrison and Hetherington, by phone, fax or e-mail. They are then posted on the web-site summary catalogue. Only the auctioneer knows who the bidders are.

The minimum bid is 900gns and breeders may state a reserve price higher than that and can accept a bid at any stage during the sale period, which opens on Nov 1 and closes on Dec 6.

"We chose Shearwell to provide the necessary programming and back-up database facilities needed to run a fast web-site catalogue that will enable two firms of auctioneers to work together, and an on-screen bidding system, which as far as I know has not been done before in the UK for livestock," says Mr Trewhella.

"It had the basis of a system already built and it has a good track record for practical farmer-friendly solutions." Buyers and sellers can either phone the breed society for more information or log on at www.nlmd.co.uk or www.britishsimmental.co.uk

Shearwell is also developing the National Livestock Management Database to which farmers can supply livestock management details to animals they wish to sell. These can include the animals sire and dam, performance figures, veterinary treatments and costs, sale prices and grades. &#42

Swallowhill Lancaster from Kent breeders Mr and Mrs Jukes is one of the 50 plus bulls on the new Simmental auction website. He was sired by the 14,000gns Perth champion Balmanno Hitman.