Popularity grows for online selling

Selling rams is largely a traditional occupation. You breed the rams, feed them well and then dress them and take to an auction, but for some that is all changing.

Recent years have seen sales of tups from farms increase, but just how do you go about telling potential customers what you’ve got and whether they’re right for them?

For years Marlborough-based Peter Blanchard wrote to previous and potential customers listing available tups and their performance data. “Gradually, though, customers sold their flocks and finding new mailing lists to use became difficult due to data protection rules. We were looking at what else we could do and thought the internet provided the ideal option.”

But while plenty of pedigree breeders have their own websites detailing information about the farm and the stock as promotional aids, few use them as a true sales tool, listing stock for sale.

Performance data

This year for the first time Mr Blanchard and his son, Tom, have listed details of all the rams they have for sale on their own website, www.savernakesuffolks.co.uk. This gives potential customers the chance to view performance data and other relevant information before visiting the farm to pick out the rams they want.

“It’s just an extension of what we’ve been doing before, but it’s the modern way of doing it. The listings include full details of the rams’ pedigrees, including notes on each sire, their estimated breeding values and this year we’ve measured each tup for length and height, allowing buyers to get more of an idea what each one is like before they see them.”

Tups have also been weighed to give a further guide to their size and stature. But, Mr Blanchard has stopped short of listing prices on the website, something he had considered doing. “With interest in our New Zealand bred Suffolk tups from both pedigree and commercial customers it is difficult to price them in advance, particularly as some commercial buyers may buy up to 10 rams at a time.”

But future changes to the site may see Mr Blanchard include ram prices, so once buyers gain confidence in the system it allows them to reserve rams online with a view to payment on collection or delivery.

But the system is already working well, with several buyers identifying possible purchases from the listings before visiting the flock.

“This has allowed us to sort the sheep they are interested in before they arrive. It saves time for both them and us and eliminates the need for us to match ear numbers to records for too many sheep in one go.”

Additionally, in a bid to help buyers understand the figures and information in the listings, the website also includes a comprehensive glossary of terms which explains exactly which EBVs mean what and how the information is generated.

And it is these New Zealand bred Suffolks which have been generating most interest for Mr Blanchard’s Savernake flock, since he first used New Zealand Suffolk semen four years ago.

“Largely, people are interested in them for their vigour and liveliness in their lambs, but their performance is good too, particularly in terms of muscling in the leg.”

Recent computer tomography (CT) scan analysis has shown these New Zealand bred Suffolk tups to have a greater percetange of meat in the leg than pure UK Suffolks. “Of all the New Zealand bred Suffolks born in 2007, 97% are in the top 25% of the breed for performance.

“So, our intention is to blend the best bits of the New Zealand type with high index UK Suffolks to produce a commercial ram with quick growth rates, high muscling and plenty of vigour and longevity. Rams need to be able to cover plenty of ewes and to last and that’s what the New Zealand type can offer.”

Birth scores of Savernake Suffolk lambs 2006
Lambing ease Vigour Speed to suck
NZ sired 1.76 1.79 1.76
UK sired 2.09 2.09 1.82

1- No assistance. 2 – Minor help

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