Livestock industry divided over push for saleyards to go online

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Saleyards auctions across the country have been going ahead as an essential service, despite tightening restrictions from governments due to COVID-19 concerns.

key points livestock auctions

Key points:

  • Saleyard auctions are continuing with only registered buyers, agents and staff attending
  • Livestreaming of saleyard auctions is being trialled at several centres
  • Some industry figures say more reliable technology is needed for livestream saleyard auctions

Livestock trading has seen a major shift to online in recent months, with record listings on the AuctionsPlus website and some saleyards taking bids over a livestream.

But the country’s major selling centres are still running physical auctions with only registered buyers, agents and staff allowed to attend.

“Ensuring continuity in food supply at this difficult time is of critical importance and livestock and selling centres are a key component of the food supply chain,” a spokesperson for the Australian Livestock Markets Association said.

While a growing number of those selling centres are starting to take online bids, the majority still require buyers and agents to physically turn up to the sale.

Better for some clients

Winton-based livestock agent Tom Brodie said he would support saleyards more if they went online, because it opened his clients up to more buyers who did not have the resources to travel.

“Not everyone likes to drive to cattle sales to bid, it’s not in their make up to do that, they don’t feel comfortable,” Mr Brodie said.

“When the saleyards are running hot there’s nothing like saleyard prices, but that’s more the auction system.

“If they go to Blackall or Roma and the agents had them online as well as physical sale, we’d support them that’s for sure.”

Livestream trial successful

The days of livestock sales being a social occasion have been halted due to health fears.

Queensland Rural in Charters Towers, in north Queensland, recently livestreamed a sale of young cattle, destined for feedlots or other stations for fattening.

Agent Nick Malone said despite scepticism about potential problems with the technology, the sale was a success.

“We ended buyers with buyers from the Territory that bought a couple of mobs online, we had fellas in the central the bought online that couldn’t make it,” Mr Malone said.

Mr Malone said the technology used at the sale was able to keep up with the usually fast-paced environment.

“There was questions around, is it going to be delayed? are we going to lose audio?” he said.

“But once we gave it a run and it didn’t put a hold to us at all.”

Not everyone convinced to go online

Meat processor Terry Nolan says livestreaming cattle auctions still has flaws and physical sales are still necessary.

Despite the push for online, the majority of saleyards are still operating without live bidding and have no plans to change that in the foreseeable future.

Meat processor Terry Nolan said he was not opposed to buying cattle from internet auctions, but the livestreamed saleyards still had a number of potential flaws.

“All you’d need is a glitch, then all of a sudden you’ve missed out on a pen,” Mr Nolan said.

Mr Nolan said buyers who were restricted from going to a saleyard still had the opportunity to bid on the cattle.

“If I have to attend an auction and there’s never many cattle that suit me, than I’ll send a commission buyer,” he said.

“There’s a lot of professional buyers out there that anyone can ring up.”

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