Annual Dairy Pedigree Sale is Online Success!

20th April 2020

Despite the nation being in lock down, and tight regulations being in place to trade, Harrison & Hetherington has held the UK’s very first dedicated virtual pedigree livestock sale, and as the bids closed for The 2020 Border and Lakeland Club annual spring sale of pedigree Holstein and British Friesian Bulls at 5pm Tuesday April 14th, it was deemed a very successful first online auction.

Not wanting to down tools on livestock sales at this challenging time, Harrison and Hetherington had made the decision to run the sale online, in an ebay-style auction.  This had to be quickly put together and with the dedicated online auction site being turned around in just seven days.  H&H received 100 UK-wide registrations before the auction ended and 9000 views.  As the virtual auction closed, 80% of livestock had been cleared.

Interest in the sale was very positive from the start and Glyn Lucas, Senior Pedigree Dairy auctioneer for Harrison & Hetherington has confirmed that due to this success, online auctions will be the way forward for the pedigree sales in the coming weeks.  This approach is completely new to all parties involved and has been quite a learning curve, but a necessary one that will continue to be developed and improved.  Covid-19 restrictions have made traditional livestock sales in the ring impossible – and the company’s decision to launch an online catalogue and online auction allows trading to continue – albeit without the face-to-face sales that the traditional mart embodies.

There was unfortunately a slight technical problem at the end of the sale, which required it to be extended slightly, but this had no bearing on the end result with the online auction experience receiving positive feedback from vendors and buyers alike.

The sale included a catalogue of 72 Lots from Shropshire in the South to Fife in the north over to Northern Ireland with many counties in between. The Calibre of genetics on offer was superb with some of the highest production Friesians ever offered and some phenomenal animals with incredible bloodlines production and massive butter fat and protein levels.  The top bull went for £4,600 and over 50 bulls sold.

A dedicated set of guidelines was produced so that interested parties could understand the format better and two separate online Questions & Answers sessions with Glyn Lucas, Senior Dairy Auctioneer proved extremely useful for clarification purposes and to promote engagement with buyers.  In an industry that is used to the buzz of the sale ring, it was a very different experience to what farmers are used to but they really got into the spirit of the event.

A learning from the new approach was that vendors are used to showing their livestock in the ring and not used to taking videos for digital media use.  As such, following this sale, Harrison & Hetherington will be devising some simple step by step guidelines for farmers on how to take videos that show the character and movements of a beast that would be evident in the ring.

Commenting on the importance of the sale Glyn added:

“We find ourselves in exceptionally challenging times, but it remains an important time of the year for farmers and it is imperative that the flow of breeding animals, that are critical to our milk supplies and food chain, is able to continue in order to reach the necessary businesses and individuals.

“Online selling is the norm in many industries so we consulted with our customers, who agreed that this would be well worth a trial.  I am thrilled to say that the end result proves this was a success and we have learned ways to help us to innovate and improve.”

Kevin Wilson of KJ & KS Wilson of Warnelview Farm in Thursby near Carlisle sold his ten bulls to an overall average of £3000.  Pleased with the result given the change in approach, he said:

“This is a key sale in the dairy calendar as buyers need the bulls to get the cows incalf so it was important the sale went ahead one way or another.   These are uncertain times and there was a little apprehension how it would go but I would like to thank H&H for turning this very important sale around so quickly.

“There were so many people at the end trying to bid that there was a slight glitch, but for me personally the sale was tremendous and all my bulls got sold.  From my perspective it was a good method of selling, it certainly did the job in these challenging times, but I did miss the interaction with the buyers and the opportunity to show the bulls in front of them.”

Commenting on the overall success of the online auction, Glyn concludes: “It is not an option for us to stop sales, it is imperative that farmers are able to buy and sell their bulls in a safe environment.  As a company we must look to the future and hand on heart for me personally there is nothing better than seeing what you are buying in the flesh, but for now with restrictions, this is without a doubt a viable option.

“It was a new experience for all involved and will take some getting used to, including quite a lot of preparation for vendors up-front, they essentially need to create a fashion show of their livestock! However, conducting sales in the safe online environment is the only way to manage the risk – for buyers, vendors and all H&H staff, who have taken these new Covin-19 guidelines very seriously.”

Following the success of the sale, Harrison and Hetherington will continue to innovate and find new ways to trade, and the company has just received the encouraging news that the Ayrshire Cattle Society conference sale, that was recently cancelled due to the lock down, will now go ahead later in the month in the virtual sales ring environment.  For further details, please contact a member of the team on 01228 406230