14 September 2001

On-line auction launch soon

A MAJOR internet-based livestock auction system will be launched in about three weeks time by Exmoor-based Shearwell Data.

Richard Webber, the companys managing director, believes auctions are the most effective way of determining market price, but recognises there are many reasons why the traditional live, round-the-ring market may not be possible, while foot-and-mouth restrictions exist.

The same team of programmers developing software for on-line auctions is also involved with Shearwells bid to set up a national livestock management database, which can run on mutual lines. The company, he says, has access to both the computer resource needed to run an on-line auction as well as the back-up staff to support it.

To work though, it needs sellers to use the sale facilities, but it has no track record to offer them. Sellers will be offered the option of running their on-line sale themselves by hiring the software, but Mr Webber reckons most will prefer to use an agent such as a breed society, or an established livestock auctioneer, to benefit from their expertise and knowledge, and to ensure they get paid. Such a relationship would be essential for sellers without access to the internet.

Cost savings

And Mr Webber is confident there would be cost savings for all three parties. He understands video auctions are very expensive to organise and that some have run at a loss. He also believes that being on-line will reach the maximum number of bidders. Fees are likely to be about 3% per sale, with 2% going to the agent and 1% to Shearwell.

Whoever runs the sales will be able to offer a full service including licences and arranging transport, thanks to the back-up programmes available through the national database. Sales will normally run for a period of days, at the end of which the highest bidder for each lot becomes the owner, subject to payment.

However, sellers have the option to ask for the identity of the bidder before deciding whether to accept. Here again auctioneers expertise could be invaluable.

Another option would be to act as a register, cataloguing details of stock on offer on the site along with the agents name and number, to arrange inspection and determine prices privately. &#42