“Auctioneers need farmers to stick with us and help us” was the direct message from Chris Dodds, Executive Secretary to the Livestock Auctioneers Association during an online farmers meeting discussing the difficulties of re- opening livestock markets to a greater degree.
The meeting was organised by The Farmer Network and chaired by managing director Adam Day, in response to growing concern from the farming community that they may not be allowed access to livestock auctions at special annual sales in the Autumn months. Currently all auctioneers are asking vendors to protect their own health and minimise risk to others by operating on a system called “drop and go”. Buyers can stand around the auction ring under strict distancing and movement rules, but sellers must drop off their livestock at auctions then leave immediately without entering the building in person.
Mr Dodds gave 30 farmers an insight into discussions and negotiations with DEFRA and the need for auctioneers and farmers to work together, taking great care in future to stick within social distancing rules when entering livestock markets.
Ted Ogden, Auctioneer with CCM markets, Skipton, presented on the current difficulties in trying to run sales under the present rules but assured farmers that everything would be done to ensure that buyers and sellers would be able to safely enter the market in future. The company was also exploring new ground with live streaming, timed bid auctions and other online sales.
Glyn Lucas, Pedigree Dairy Auctioneer with H&H Group, also a presenter at the meeting, was sure that the “live” ring would always be the main sales platform for breeding livestock. However, their recent online sales during the Covid 19 outbreak have gone well, particularly in the dairy sector. This is a new environment and will take some getting used to but has a definite future.
Sarah Alderton from Penrith wondered whether auctioneers could provide guidance and support for vendors in how to photograph and present animals correctly for online catalogues as this is an essential skill to get right and provide confidence for buyers.
Richard Betton from Upper Teesdale raised concerns about the timing of autumn sales and questioned how conflict on sale days might be avoided if auctioneers are having to rearrange sale dates and how this might impact on farmers health and wellbeing especially if access restrictions remained in place. He was also very worried that a second virus spike may have severe implications for the autumn sales programme, which is essential to farming communities the length and breadth of the country.
Andrew Wright, auctioneer from Cockermouth said he believed that auctioneers must work together on a local basis to ensure that there was minimal disruption and uniform working practices.
Adam Day closed the meeting by saying; “Auctioneers are having to adapt to and overcome a very difficult challenge. Communication and cooperation with customers and other auctioneers will be essential over the coming months. Everyone has a duty of care.”