Online livestock trading platform AuctionsPlus has notched up a strong 2014 turnover result for both sheep and cattle.
Cattle turnover last year reached 241,537 head, up more than 40,000 head or 20 percent on the previous calendar year, while sheep numbers, at 2.17 million, were up by more than 500,000 head, or one-third.
Cattle listings have improved steadily over the past four years.
The cattle turnover figures compare favourably with the largest physical saleyards in Australia, including Roma (356,000 head), Dalby (208,000 head), Dubbo (271,000 head), Wodonga (230,000 head) and Carcoar (181,000 head).
While the high turnover in stock generally last year was obviously influenced by the Eastern Australian drought, AuctionsPlus chief executive Anna Speer says it can also be partly explained by increasing buyer and seller interest in online trading, generally.
“In fact drought probably does not work in AuctionsPlus’s favour so much as saleyards, because there tends to be a sense of urgency in many drought-selling decisions, that only saleyards can provide,” she said.
“We tend to find listings on Auctions Plus tend are a little more strategic, because they know they can put their reserve in and get in for another round.”
As can be seen in this graph, monthly cattle listings across 2013 and 2014 roughly followed the movements of the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator, with the exception of a short period in December last year, before rain arrived.
The calendar year figures are supported by solid rises in trade so far in the current 2014-15 fiscal year, which are well ahead of year-earlier figures.
For the July-December period of 2014-15, NSW has accounted for more than 53,500 cattle, with Queensland second largest on 38,000 head.
For sheep, NSW was responsible for more than 500,000 head since July, followed by South Australia 210,000, Victoria 201,000 and Queensland, +100,000 head.
One of the trends has been growing buying activity from live exporter buyers, particularly in southern areas for Angus steers into the Russian market. That in turn is pulling through listings of lines of cattle suited to live export.
In sheep, the new OJD Plan in NSW has allowed producers to target broader selling areas, based on biosecurity areas. Strong sheep areas like Walgett, for example, are now able to trade more broadly on the basis of their OJD regional biosecurity plan status.
Similarly, there has been strong AuctionsPlus trade on OJD-free sheep out of Queensland into South Australia and Victoria, at premiums of up to $25 a head, on the basis of OJD status.
Ms Speer said the current circumstances being seen this week, where cattle prices in the direct consignment supply channel for both slaughter and young cattle were ‘struggling to keep up’ with the (physical and online) system, due to the rapid market adjustments, clearly demonstrated how strong the auction system was in exposing cattle to the broadest possible buyer market.
“It gives the vendors that transparent opportunity to see who is actually in the market for those cattle, and what they are prepared to pay,” she said. “The bigger the buyer pool, the more opportunity the vendor has to find that competitor who will pay the top price for the stock.”
A series of marketing and technology innovations are helping drive current AuctionsPlus momentum this financial year.
Uptake of video as a supporting tool for listings continues to grow, and while their use varies among the assessors and agents involved, there is rarely a sale now where a considerable number of videos are not included.
“Tasmania is perhaps the highest adopter in the video space – they’re doing some great sheep and beef videos down there,” Ms Speer said. “To be truthful, I’d say that there is a price bias emerging towards those listings that have a video in support, as it just gives those buyers that little bit more confidence when bidding. The really switched-on operators also do a little video after the sale, which also serves to promote their own business.”
Targeted AuctionsPlus feature sales are also continuing to gain a foothold, with an inaugural special feeder and weaner sale schedule for next week, and the ‘Bid the Grid’ slaughter-only sales likely to kick off during February.
“The beauty of the AuctionsPlus platform is that we are not restricted by geographic location. If there is a certain area, or market segment that will really benefit from a targeted sale, whether it be breeder replacements, PTIC or PTE cows, weaners, or whatever, we can schedule a special sale to suit,” Ms Speer said.
“We’re talking to agents and assessors regularly to determine whether circumstances mean they have a special sale prospect in their area. Rather than having their own individual special sales, we are pushing for open independent sales to deliver greater volume, which in turn attracts more buyers.”
“We’ve already had strong bookings for the breeder cattle sale in February, so that may become a fortnightly event. For the National weaner and feeder sale next week (Friday 23 January), we’d be disappointed if we don’t get over 2000 head, and we could easily exceed that.”
Special bloodline sales will again feature in 2015, with the likes of Te Mania Angus and Palgrove Charolais again likely to host sales for progeny listed by their commercial bull clients.
The normal Friday AuctionsPlus sale today will be split into two sales, as there is a limit of 80 listings for a single sale. The first sale, offering 3100 head in 67 lots started at 10am, and the second (1900 head in 38 lots) at 11am. Results on what promises to be a cracking sale will be posted on Monday.
Transparency, assessment performance focus
Ms Speer said the AuctionsPlus system was aiming to become increasingly transparent this year.
“We’d like to think that buyers can feel completely assured that what they buy is what they get, matching the description on the assessment. We’ve already started on assessor training and refresher courses, but in addition, one of the introductions this year is a feedback mechanism, so that both buyers and vendors can provide performance ratings on their assessors.”
“In time, that could even go so far as feedback on transporters, making the whole system very transparent. It’s about giving the people doing the right thing a pat on the back, and helping support and educate those that are struggling a little.”
While the AuctionsPlus predecessor, Computer Aided Livestock Marketing, was founded on slaughter cattle, the trend has swung heavily to store stock, now representing “in the high 90 percents” of all cattle sold online.
But the launch of dedicated “Bid the Grid” slaughter cattle sales in late February or early March will aim to correct that, Ms Speer said. Two preliminary “Bid the Grid” sales were held last year, and webinars will be held soon to build buyer, vendor, and agents’ training in advance of the launch.
The first few sales will be built around cattle only in Queensland, but the intention is to take the “Bid the Grid” program national, and across both major species, once it is embedded. Day of the week, and frequency, are yet to be finalised.
The increasing numbers of professional marketing Agents who see Auctions Plus as an ‘opportunity’ rather than a ‘threat’ – together with the keen Producers who can put lines together for a ‘Sale by Description’ Auction, sees Auctions Plus working the way this system was designed to succeed.
The added use of video has certainly boosted buyer confidence in the Live Assessment – a wonderful combination of confidence, support and technology which was before its time in 1986, as CALM.
Well done – a great system.