IT LOOKS like some of the late spring bull sales and other breeding sales, will follow a new on-line bidding format.

Following the latest government guidelines on Covid-19, Harrison and Hetherington has made the decision to conduct its series of spring pedigree breed society sales with an ‘on-line timed auction’ for all types of breeding livestock.

Due to the rising cases of Covid-19, the firm realised that it would not be safe to run the pedigree sales in the usual manner. Now, the sales will proceed in an on-line ‘catalogue’. To carry this out, H and H has revolutionised a version of the online sales tools that it used during foot-and-mouth in 2001 in order to fulfil client demand.

“We are facing a far bigger problem with Covid-19 than we did with foot-and-mouth, because it is effecting the whole nation and is worldwide, not just the farming industry. Things have changed over the years, so it is crucial we can come up with the best system that works at the present time,” said Heather Prichard, pedigree specialist with the group.

Current government guidelines state that prime and store stock can be sold through the ring, while breeding and dairy stock cannot. However, with spring approaching – the time when buyers come out to buy their new stock bull – there needs to be a way to match up breeding herds with new stock sires.

“We have to look at alternative methods but need to assist customers as best we can to help the industry continue. At present, every day is different, as is every week, it has been very challenging trying to keep up to date with the fast-changing situation we find ourselves in,” added Grant Anderson, Harrison and Hetherington’s senior auctioneer.

There are positives arising from the situation, with entries almost on par with last year, with some breeds showing an increase in entries.

“Breeders seem to be up to trying the new system. We will likely find a different kind of trade, but that will be reflected on the livestock that is on offer,” said James Little, another of the firms’ senior auctioneers.

Mrs Pritchard added: “Our aim is to help our customers, by providing a platform for them to market their pedigree cattle, while offering buyers the opportunity to fulfil their requirements and therefore guarantee the future of their herd.

“The auction system gives a lot more confidence than a one to one private deal – our customers have traded with us for years and worked up strong relationships.

“We have to follow it through with a solution. The way our industry is just now, we all need to be able to work together as a bigger force – it is the only way we will come through these challenging times,” she added.

The first sale for the on-line system will be the spring dairy bull sale – which was due to take place on April 8 – but will now run over three days, commencing at 9am on Friday, April 10 and running until 5pm Tuesday, April 14.

“I am really looking forward to seeing how it works, and enthusiastic to see how people will embrace it – I think it is a thrilling opportunity. In today’s world, a lot of buying and selling is done online so why not livestock!” said Glyn Lucas, head of dairy cattle sales at Carlisle.

All entries will be accompanied by pictures and videos on the website, as well as information on their pedigrees, which can be accessed prior to the sale by interested buyers.

“It is a way to get around these difficult times and we need to keep our customers, buyers and staff safe,” Mr Lucas continued. “We have buyers and sellers from all over the UK, so it would not be fair to ask them to travel here in these extraordinary times.

“Allowing videos to be accessed, allows buyers to witness the locomotion of the animal, for all truths to be affronted. This is an opportunity. When we are faced with a problem, we need to be able to present the solution.”

In Scotland, there are mixed decisions on what is happening to the breeding sales coming up.

“We are awaiting the outcome of the rules after the first lockdown period ends before we make any final decisions,” said George Purves, managing director at United Auctions. “It is too early for us to make that decision, but we are certain that our pedigree bull sales will go ahead in some form.”

Up in Dingwall, after the success of the Luing cattle sale last year, the directors of the Luing society and Dingwall and Highland Marts have confirmed the sale will definitely go ahead in one form or another.

Over the years, they have built up an excellent working relationship that they hope to continue long into the future, and are closely monitoring the situation with regard to Covid-19, said the Luing Cattle Society.

In the event of the live sale not going ahead, they will work together to find the best way to sell the cattle to the best advantage.

“Farming is a vital industry and particularly in these difficult times, so ensuring they have access to high quality, high health status breeding cattle has never been more important,” it concluded.



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