Does the auction have a role to play for the cattle? asks Scott Donaldson, Managing Director of Harrison & Hetherington


WITH a history of over 200 years, the auction system may be the oldest method of marketing livestock, and it may offer the only truly transparent and competitive market for all categories of cattle and sheep available to them. British breeders. But as we head into a time of extreme uncertainty, with soaring input costs, declining support payments, and the public perception that livestock is the bad guy when it comes to climate change, what role is agriculture playing? shouted in the future of animal production? asks Scott Donaldson, managing director of Harrison & Hetherington, the main auctioneer.

Every type of agricultural product, whether it is grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, beef, mutton or pork, depends on supply and demand to determine its value. We have been told for many years about our position in the global market and how supply no longer depends solely on what is happening on our coasts and how the floods in France, the drought in Canada and the huge yields in Ukraine all affect our farm gate price here in the UK. But the determining factor in the successful marketing of any product is competition, and the auction system and every customer in the auction market benefits.

With the layered and extremely diverse nature of its makeup, the UK livestock industry does not lend itself to the integrated supply chain model. Agricultural enterprises are predominantly family-owned, with immense variations in scale and types of production systems. Depending on the region and the type of farm, from lowland arable land to highland arable land, there is a great variety and range of breeds produced.

There was a lot of emphasis on what the market wants and meeting specifications. The diversity of animal production systems in the UK means that meeting specifications is not always straightforward. This is where the auction market really makes sense. In the competitive auction environment, the customer determines what meets specifications, and this has happened in UK auction markets over the past few months. Age and movement don’t seem relevant at the moment, heavy lambs are in high demand, and overweight cattle are breaking price barriers every week.

The auction market brings efficiency to the industry by bringing together numbers from all categories of inventory in one place, so that the customer has the choice and volumes they need to maintain the efficiency of their inventory. business. This allows large numbers to be transported to their destinations in one lift.

Auction markets have adapted and evolved several times during my career in the industry. In the 1980s, we moved from handwritten ledgers and clerks to a computer system that allowed us to instantly produce computer-printed checks and invoices for clients. We adopted the cattle passport system and sheep EID tag system, and introduced digital displays to give more information to our buyers. Primarily for sales of primestock direct to slaughterhouses, in the early 90s electronic auction systems were introduced by major UK auction companies, this was a big step forward from the tradition of era.

Live auction broadcasting and live online auctions started to emerge around 2015 and they have only gotten stronger. The introduction of online timed sales of purebred cattle gained momentum after the lockdown, a way machine specialists had been using for some time.

So, what innovation will the auction markets defend next? Well, the modern auction market is already a well-equipped agro-food hub. Large numbers of cattle are herded into a specially designed animal welfare facility, and cutting edge technology works in tandem with the arena in an efficient and welcoming environment. The imminent introduction of Bovine EID reduces unnecessary handling and will improve the welfare of livestock and the safety of customers and staff in the market. The Livestock Information Program (LIP) designed to replace BCMS will reduce paperwork and the entire package will improve efficiency, while uploading health status and other livestock information. The ring will soon be an interactive digital interface, providing buyers with all the information they need to make informed and accurate buying decisions both from the ring and from the farm office.


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