AT the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when social distancing restrictions meant vendors, unregistered buyers and spectators could not attend the saleyards, South-West Victoria Livestock Exchange (SWVLX) Saleyard Manager, Paul White, knew he needed to move the sale online to keep the flow of cattle moving.
After speaking to StockLive Manager, Libby Hufton, on a Tuesday, the online-bidding platform and live simulcast was up and running by that Friday’s Store Sale.
“StockLive fit like a glove,” Mr White said.
"From the very first sale the partnership has run smoothly and gave us great peace of mind during the pandemic.
“We have continued on with StockLive as it means buyers can have confidence to bid and secure cattle regardless of where they are based. It’s also important for vendors, who work long hours and extremely hard to produce excellent cattle, to watch their stock being sold.”
In the past two years, a total of 3184 viewers have tuned in to watch the auction simulcast.
“Particularly during our weaner auctions, which are held in December and January, we sell cattle to buyers right across the country,” he said.
Established in 1883, and previously known as the Warrnambool Saleyards, SWVLX moved from the centre of town to its current location at Caramut Road in 1970 and is a vital link in Victoria and Australia’s livestock supply chains.
In 2020, a $969,000 upgrade to the facility was finalised, including the development of a 3500 square-metre roof over 40 holding pens. Tenders are also now open for construction of roofing across all selling pens, as part of a multi-million-dollar project to optimise animal welfare and ensure sale days run smoothly.
“The buyers’ walkways, auctioneer platforms and our water treatment infrastructure will also soon be upgraded,” Mr White said.
Rapid uptake of technology
The introduction of StockLive has aligned with the major upgrades modernising the saleyards and has been utilised across 27 sales.
On average, auctions with StockLive operating receive approximately 20 per cent of bids from online buyers and more than 2,500 head of cattle have been purchased via the platform, which equates to $3.8 million in value.
Jack Kelly, JJ Kelly Stock Agency, has been marketing his clients’ stock at SWVLX for close to 30 years, and said vendors and buyers were swift to embrace online selling during an uncertain time for the industry.
“We have never had to cancel a sale at SWVLX during all my years at the saleyard, but we were forced to do so when the pandemic hit,” Mr Kelly said.
“It wasn’t a good time, and there was huge uncertainty for buyers and vendors.
“With StockLive, not only could our vendors watch their stock being sold, but our buyers could bid from any location.
“When the platform was first up and running I would ring my clients to let them know where the prices were sitting and they would tell me they already knew as they had been watching the sale online.”
Since COVID-19 restrictions have eased, Mr Kelly said some vendors and buyers had chosen to watch and bid on the auctions in person, while others still prefer StockLive’s flexibility.
“There is no doubt, online selling has helped grow our buying pool, and we have increased bidding competition across sales, as StockLive buyers bid strongly,” he said.
“It was certainly a strange sensation when we first started selling and the buyers from the front of the pen would walk off, as it was only StockLive buyers left bidding.”
Modern buyers’ demands
Kieran Johnstone, Nutrien Ag Solutions Warrnambool, said StockLive had paved way for improved pre-sale marketing, which modern buyers were now expecting.
“The information provided is extremely important to buyers, and Stocklive has cattle weights, their breeding, vendor details and vaccination history clearly displayed,” Mr Johnstone said.
The access Stocklive delivers to both buyers and vendors has also allowed Mr Johnstone to provide outstanding service to the most diverse and widespread of clients. This includes a producer who owns farms and cattle in south-west Victoria, but spends half of the year in the United States.
“He has never had to miss out on watching his cattle sold, as he can tune in from his home in Virginia Beach in the U.S,” he said.