Strong year looms for Auctions-Plus, says system’s top agent

Jon Condon, 21/02/2013


BJA's Bob Jamieson, right receives congratulations from Auctions-Plus chief executive Gary Dick for topping cattle turnover for the second consecutive year in 2012The 2013 year is shaping up as a busy one for cattle marketing via the Auctions-Plus online trading platform, says the NSW stock agent responsible for more online cattle sales than any other for the past two years.

The combination of dry interior areas of eastern Australia and better summer rainfall further east along the coast could stimulate strong store cattle movements to where the fed is located in both Queensland and NSW, New England private agent Bob Jamieson says.

And Auctions-Plus could play an effective role in that process.

An early example was seen last Friday, when a group of drought-impacted producers from Kynuna, Julia Creek, Georgetown and Hughenden offered 1500 cattle, mostly heifers and young steers, in a Northwest Qld Auctions-Plus special online store sale.

Mr Jamieson is a strong advocate for the online marketing platform and the opportunities it provides to extend the cattle buyer audience, beyond what is possible with saleyards or private paddock sale.

His Inverell-based Bob Jamieson Agencies business has marketed about 15,000 head of cattle via Auctions Plus over the past two years, earning recognition for highest cattle turnover among all stock agents using the system for both 2011 and 2012.

A key statistic behind that achievement was a 99.8 percent success rate for BJA’s listings, against a pass-in rate on total Auctions-Plus cattle listings estimated by some stakeholders at 30 percent or higher.

Mr Jamieson attributes part of the success behind such high clearance rates as in aiming to “find the market for the cattle first, before we go out and source the cattle to sell.”     

Currently about 15pc of BJA’s turnover is in Auctions-Plus transactions, the balance through traditional saleyards and paddock sale business.

“We’re looking for a point of difference within our business, and Auctions-Plus provides that, on the right sort of cattle,” Mr Jamieson said.

“There are agents that concentrate solely on saleyards, or on direct paddock supply to feedlots, but we aim to utilise all the available cattle marketing options, as best suits each individual application,” he said.

A Computer Aided Livestock Marketing (CALM) assessor since the early 1990s, Mr Jamieson and two of his staff are all level-one Auctions-Plus assessors, which he thinks may be unique in any Australian private agency business.

Part of BJA’s success in building Auctions-Plus throughput can be explained by some of the innovations the company has pioneered.

One of these has been to segment the company’s Auctions-Plus listings, running a series of four ‘Blue Ribband’ showcase sales within the Auctions-Plus schedule each year.

The company essentially hires the site, running the special sale immediately after the regular Friday Auctions-Plus sale. The marketing term ‘Blue Ribband’ is designed to signify the sales’ large, even, quality lines of stock, ranging from weaners to females.

The process has been further extended with development of a series of ‘bloodline’ on-line sales featuring commercial breeder clients of prominent seedstock enterprises. An example is an annual Texas Angus client sale, open only to bull-buying clients of the well-regarded Angus seedstock enterprise.

BJA’s most recent Texas Angus client Blue Ribband sale held last May drew cattle from a vast area of Eastern Australia as far distant a Richmond, Longreach and Dalby in Queensland, and Dorrigo and Mulalley in NSW – all sold under the Texas Angus identity.

Some time back, the business trialled another innovation, in the form of a forward contract sale, offering lines of young females, pre-joining, on a PTIC basis for delivery four months down the track.

“It should have been a difficult task to sell those 600 heifers, including Ironbark and Weebollabolla bloodlines, given that the bulls had not even gone into the breeder paddocks at that stage,” Mr Jamieson said.

“But we gave potential buyers the genetic background to the cattle; people came out in some cases and inspected the bulls and the heifers themselves. Some had to sell other cattle first, or had surplus feed.”

“Payment terms were a 50pc deposit on the sale and the balance on delivery. At the time, season-wise, heifers were hard to sell, but breeders were worth some money. On sale day, it looked a really good price, but the way the season worked out, four months later, it turned out to be only an average price.”

“But they buyers had to commit to purchasing those cattle in winter for delivery in the spring, and the season went with the buyers, on that occasion,” Mr Jamieson said.

Another innovation pioneered by BJA has been guaranteed delivery. This service may be unique among Auctions-Plus users, he suspects. No charge to clients is applied, nor is there any charge on the gathering of pre-auction video which accompanies each Auctions-Plus lot.

Given the seasonal circumstances that are unfolding, there would likely be a lot of attraction to Auctions-Plus this year, Mr Jamieson said.

“Using the northern NSW region as an example, the feed at Dorrigo (close to the coast) is extraordinary, while producers at Walgett (at time of interview with Beef Central, at least) was still very dry,” he said.

“The difference between the two is a bit of time on a truck, and an ideal way of putting those buyers and sellers together is via the online sale.”

“We have a client further west in drier country who has 400 Black cows to sell. They will be extremely sought-after, especially among those people further east from southern Queensland right down to the Illawarra who have received great rain.”


Video and i-phone compatibility

The provision of video had been a massive step in the appeal of Auctions Plus to buyers, Mr Jamieson said.

He used the example of the Lonergan family from Weemelah at Moree.

“They produce feeder cattle that a number of nearby feedlots love, because of their marbling and feedlot performance. So every time Weemelah lines up some young cattle on an Auctions-Plus sale, if someone else wants them, they have to beat those feedlots. The system seeks out those other competitors, either local or much further distant, and the video gives them greater confidence in what they are buying.”

He said he knew the inclusion of video footage of sale lots was going to be ‘good’ soon after the innovation was first launched two years ago.

“I had a call from a cattleman heading north from Ilfracombe in Central Queensland, who wanted to know about a line of cows being offered by Sandy Munro. He had a laptop in his truck with him, which fortunately had reception. When I alerted him to the video, he had a look at the cows, allowing him to make a bid virtually on the spot.”

BJA now provides video footage of each and every consignment it markets via Auctions-Plus.

“It’s a very powerful tool, in delivering the maximum amount of information to the prospective buyer,” Mr Jamieson said.      

The next step in the video process, which promises to take the system to ‘another level’, would be i-phone and i-pad compatibility, currently under trial and likely to be launched by Auctions-Plus sometime early this year.

“It will allow users to have a look at the video of a line of cows being offered, and have a bid on them while in the paddock, using nothing more than the i-phone in their pocket. It’s extraordinary, and will represent another big breakthrough,” he said.

“Just look at the uptake in i-phones and i-pads with graziers – that’s the potential with Auctions-Plus. We see it as a massive marketing opportunity.”


More slaughter cattle bought online?

Asked about potential for more slaughter cattle to be sold through Auctions-Plus, Mr Jamieson said it was already there in places, but more work remained to be done.

Bindaree Beef, for example, already bought a lot of cattle via Auctions-Plus.

“But that has developed over time, based on their confidence in our assessment ability. It’s  difficult for a processor, because there are so many aspects to take into consideration. Some other large processors are reluctant to engage as buyers, because they have had some bad experiences based around the quality of an assessment in the past.”

“As a result, we do not line-up too many of those descriptions, unless it is the best possible option.”

Mr Jamieson said the slaughter component of Auctions-Plus would become significant when more processors got their head ‘out of the clouds’ and had a good look at the system.

“There is no better way to buy a slaughter animal, in order to minimise stress, bruising and other handling issues, and they can take delivery when they want them,” he said.

  • See this morning's producer case study on Auctions-Plus marketing, featuring the New England district's Macintyre Station.   


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