Alternatives to selling livestock at markets this autumn

Ongoing social distancing restrictions and the uncertainty surrounding some breeding stock sales mean farmers may have to think about alternative ways to buy and sell their stock.

The backend of the year is typically dominated by the sale of breeding stock and whether a pedigree or commercial producer, the exchange of stock is important.

However, with the cancellation of some sales and restrictions already in place, it is inevitable farmers may have to do things differently this year.  

We speak to breeders, breed societies, and auctioneers about alternative options.

See also: On-farm ram auctions

Direct sales off the farm

What is this?

This is where stock is sold directly off the farm to the buyer.

This can work particularly well for the sale of breeding stock and pedigree animals. In the UK, about 30% of tups are currently sold directly off farm, whereas in New Zealand this is closer to 80%.

How it works

Prospective buyers can visit the farm to select their animals. This may be on a one-to-one basis or could take the form of a farm open day where several buyers turn up.


  • Start by contacting your existing customers and let them know you are open for business
  • Inform your customers about your selection criteria and your breeding policy
  • Helping your customer pick the right animal is important, which is why you should try and understand their breeding aims. Providing them with a suitable animal will help ensure repeat custom
  • Use social media to help promote stock and advertise an upcoming open day (see social media section for more info).


This year sheep breeding company Innovis, which sells performance-recorded breeding stock, has organised dedicated selection days in August where buyers can come along and view the rams on offer. Buyers are being offered 40-minute slots.

They also offer a ram-matching service online, which matches a ram’s breeding credentials to the breeding aims on a farm. More information can be found at

Breed society websites

What is this?

Many breed societies have set up dedicated buying and selling areas on their website, where as part of their membership fee, or for a small price, stock can be listed.

How it works

Sellers contact the breed society with a description of the animal they are selling, along with pictures/videos, and the breed society uploads them to its website and social media channels. Any prospective buyers then contact the seller directly.


  • Contact your breed society to see what it is offering
  • Make sure you take decent photos in good light and do not photoshop images to ensure they are a true representation of the animal
  • A short video showing the animal walking can be helpful
  • Provide as much information in the advert as possible. This should include: breeding information, disease status, vaccination history, farm assurance, TB status, housing information, Estimated Breeding Values, price, and contact details.


The Suffolk Breed Society has set-up a dedicated sales page ( where sellers are charged a nominal £3 fee for listing. The stock is then promoted via the society’s social channels. This is for commercial and pedigree stock.

Likewise, the Simmental Society has a dedicated website called Simmental Market ( aimed to bring buyers and sellers together. It is free for members to use and prospective buyers can search by region.

So far, the society has listed more than 150 animals and half have already sold.

The breed society has also launched a virtual breed show on Facebook, with a different class being judged each week, running from June until the end of July. In the first two classes combined there were almost 150 entries.

This is a good way for farmers to market their stock following the cancellation of most summer shows.

Social media

What is this?

Social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are important tools in promoting your progeny.

How it works

You will need to set up accounts for each social media channel. It is worth spending time following like-minded individuals, groups and forums with which you can interact and which may be interested in your stock.

For example, on Facebook, there is the Farming Forum, the British Farming Forum or more local groups such as The Farmer Network.

The sale of animals is prohibited on some social media channels, so do check their terms and conditions. However, there is nothing stopping you linking to external websites where your stock may be listed for sale.


  • When you are showing off your stock it is important to be clear and consistent with your messaging
  • Remember, a lot of “likes” of a post does not necessarily generate a sale, so don’t rely on social media solely
  • Rather than using social media as a marketplace, it can be used to showcase what you are doing on your farm
  • Sharing this engaging content can help build followers/potential customers.

Online auction websites

What is this?

SellMyLivestock is an example of an online marketplace for beef and sheep, with more than 65,000 UK farmers registered to trade, 30,000 searches a week and the website attracting more than 7m hits a year. 

How it works

Farmers can sell their livestock themselves by creating an online advert with a description of what they are selling and photos. 

Buyers will either contact the seller directly or if they use an agent or livestock dealer, they will take the inquiries on the seller’s behalf.  Stock is then sold by private treaty negotiation, or an eBay-style auction bidding.  

SellMyLivestock uses a secure payments system, which means when selling directly through it and not an auction mart, it ensures it has received the money from the buyer before releasing the stock.


  • To sell stock farmers need to set up an account. It is a subscription-based service with membership costing £5.99/month or £59.99/year
  • It is possible to sell and buy on the system for free, however the subscription offers a lot of extra features. These are designed to help farmers get a better price and make sure their stock reaches as many potential buyers as possible  
  • Farmers should provide their own photos/video and an honest description of the animal(s) being sold, containing information such as age, breeding etc as previously mentioned
  • SellMyLivestock also works with several breed societies to market stock.

Update on livestock sales:

  • Innovis is still holding physical mart days, however, footfall at these sales may be limited. Some of the sales will also be live-streamed
  • Some sales such as Thame Sheep sale will be held over three days instead of two to allow social distancing
  • Some sales have been cancelled, such as the NSA Wales & Border Ram Sales, or have been moved online
  • The Border Union Agricultural Society, which runs Kelso ram sale, said a decision on the sale would be made mid-July
  • Many sales are hoping to go ahead but there will be changes in place. Read the latest information about some of the changes being seen at