Coronavirus: Online livestock auctions – how they work

Over the past week, we have seen markets close their doors due to the coronavirus outbreak, with others limiting the sale of stock to primestock, cull animals and store animals and the cessation of all breeding stock sales.

With uncertainty surrounding the length of time social contact will be limited, farmers may have to look at other ways of selling and purchasing their stock.

We spoke to Andrew Loftus from livestock trading website SellMyLivestock, the largest online marketplace for beef and sheep, to find out how they work.  

See also: Coronavirus: Scottish mart introduces online sales platform

How does it work?

Farmers sell their livestock themselves by creating an online advertisement with a description and photographs of what they are selling.

Buyers either contact the seller direct, or, if they use an agent or livestock dealer, take the enquiries on the seller’s behalf.

Stock are then sold by “private treaty” negotiation, but in the next couple of weeks we will be launching eBay-style auction bidding.

How are you working with auction marts?

As an alternative to selling direct, farmers can choose to sell through a livestock agent or some local marts, who will take photos, appraise the stock and create the advert on the seller’s behalf. They will charge commission in their normal way for this.  

For example, we have teamed up with Scottish auctioneering firm ANM Group. This allows ANM to offer lots for sale on behalf of their vendors in a dedicated part of the website. 

Vendors will have the service of an auctioneer to provide advice and help on photography, listing, lotting, payment services and screening of enquiries. ANM’s online commission rate for selling through SellMyLivestock remains unchanged at 2%.

If farmers prefer to work through a mart, and that mart is unable to hold physical sales, or operating a reduced schedule, they can contact them to see whether they would be interested in selling through SellMyLivestock.

We are more than happy to work with other livestock markets, and during this difficult time we have said we will suspend all charges for marts because it is so important we keep the supply chain moving.

If those markets already have a live video stream and/or remote bidding then we can also host that on our website.

Auction marts using our platform will guarantee individual sales and receive the commission. 

Why are you working with livestock markets?

Auction markets are important in keeping the tension and liquidity in the marketplace.

Without the auction mechanism there would be no independent price setting, and everyone knows how important this is.

By working with markets, we will help to keep the market moving and keep that competitive tension. That matters to everyone in livestock.

Is my money safe selling stock online?

We have a secure payments system which means when selling directly through us and not an auction mart, we make sure we have received the money from the buyer (we hold it safely in a holding account) before the stock are released.

Sellers are not obliged to do this, but we always recommend it.

For farmers selling through an auction mart via our website, their terms and conditions will apply, and they will guarantee the payment.

You also run a primestock sale. How does this work?

Our primestock marketplace allows farmers to sell finished lambs for the best deadweight price available on any given day in a transparent and secure way. Sellers can enter a consignment of finished stock on a Tuesday and Thursday.

The system currently works on deadweight only, however, as we work with ANM and other markets we are looking at how we increase primestock volumes. This could include liveweight selling too.

We are in uncharted territory, but we’ll do all we can to help keep things moving.

Bidding starts at 10am must be accepted by 3pm the same day bids are placed. We insist all payment terms, conditions, and deductions are available for comparison before you accept any offer.

We charge the farmer 50p a head for this service. The buyer is also charged 50p a head. If you buy finished stock and would like to purchase, you must register at least 48 hours beforehand.

What guarantees do I have?

If you have used our secure payments system you have 48 hours from receipt of the livestock to lodge a complaint with us.

If you are buying stock listed by an auction mart then their usual terms and conditions will be applied, and you must lodge the complaint with them.

Do you provide haulage?

We have a network of hauliers across the country and can organise this. You can get an instant quote on the website. The commission is paid by the haulier not the farmer.

How much does it cost?

Membership costs £5.99/month or £59.99/year. It is possible to sell and buy on our system for free, however, we offer a lot of extra features to our members.

These are designed to help farmers get a better price and make sure their stock reaches as many potential buyers as possible.

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