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Cattle marketing across the miles

In the Aussie system, agents handle E-auction

Editor’s Note: Keep in mind seasons in Australia are reversed: spring — September to November; summer — December to February; autumn — March to May and winter — June to August.

At our grazing operation, Alcheringa Pastoral in Victoria, Australia, we have generally purchased cattle in late spring, after I arrive in October, and sell eight months later in autumn, before I head back up to our 4-Clover Ranch in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta.

However, as my wife Helen arrives back in Australia before I do, and with a few improvements to corrals, laneways and pasture sizes of our little Aussie grazing operation, we have been able to accommodate cattle arrival/departures outside this time frame, allowing us greater flexibility to work with market fluctuations.

We have many choices of livestock sale-yard markets across the southwest of the State of Victoria. I have visited several and sold at a couple. I have always wanted to explore the electronic marketing options.

The electronic Australian AuctionsPlus has been around for a few years but has recently gained considerable popularity across vendors and purchasers.

The TEAM internet auction up in Canada looks fairly similar conceptually to Auctions Plus but the role of the Australian Livestock Agents is where the two systems differ. All sales are conducted through an agent in the Australian system. Agents are accredited by Auctions Plus as livestock assessors.

On behalf of the seller, they describe the cattle and condition score, weigh them via portable scales, score disposition, age and qualifications for various sales programs and upload photos or videos to the auction site. Upon sale confirmation, the agent also provides the electronic RFID ear tag transfer, transfers between PICs (Property Identification Code), transport assistance and bank account funds transfers. There are no fees for purchasing, only for sales.

We purchased some heifers in 2017 on Auctions Plus after I arrived in mid-October. We selected suitable cattle from relatively nearby thus reducing the freight cost.

This year however, the drought-affected parts of New South Wales resulting in considerable offloading of early-weaned calves in September and prices were very attractive from a buying perspective. This was while I was still at 4-Clover Ranch.

From across the miles I found myself logging in on our account while on a Skype call to Helen back in Australia. Of the almost 5,000 head of calves sold during the 1-½ hour sale we honed in on Lot 378 of some Angus heifers of Topbos bloodlines that were nicely presented in the video along with a very detailed description of fat score and disposition.

With two years of purchasing experience on AuctionsPlus we are very happy with this system. The description of the cattle has fully matched what subsequently the truck delivered to our pasture. While the local markets have been the best ones suited for the sale of our cattle, we will consider this as an option also in the future.

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