Covid leads to a winner


In Business, Livestock5 Minutes
John Scott and his family started with Texel sheep and Shorthorn cattle but over the years they have added Beltex, New Zealand Suffolk, Aberfield Sheep, and Luing cattle.

Scottish farmer and Country-Wide home block columnist John Scott is successfully using a New Zealand online selling system.

With no chance of holding a traditional ram sale auction on their farm at Fearn near Inverness due to lockdown in 2020, the Scotts started to look for ways of holding the sale online.

John says there were various United Kingdom options available.

“Nothing really ticked the right boxes until we found Yourbid developed, due to Covid, by Giddings family from Fairlie NZ.”

The Scotts’ customer base now covers the whole of the UK and Ireland. It used to be a three-hour drive radius of the farm.“Our averages are better than ever!”

He had met George Giddings and his father David by chance in 2019. John spent an hour chatting to George and a friendship was formed.

John says Yourbid is a very simple system using the Helmsman style auction which allows buyers to bid on their preferred lot before falling back to their second and third choice if need be.

“It’s transparent and extremely fair on both the buyer and seller and is user-friendly for the remote bidder.”

John and his family have been breeding stud stock at Fearn for 25 years. It started with Texel sheep and beef Shorthorn cattle but over the years they have added Beltex, New Zealand Suffolk and Aberfield sheep, and Luing cattle.

“Online selling of livestock isn’t something I ever thought we would do at Fearn but thanks to Covid it has become a key element in our sales strategy.”

He says selling online is all about preparation and by the final day of the sale the hard work has been done.

“We can focus on the day and any buyers who turn up in person.”

John says they are always thinking about their next sale, how to make it better and broaden their reach. The serious preparation starts with a timeline which includes, filming stock, catalogue preparation, a media plan which includes a lot of social media, catering, sponsor communications and more.

He emphasises social media as it takes up a lot of time throughout the year.

“It’s important that you let buyers see what you’re up to all year round so they build confidence in the way that you produce stock.”

The family splits their social media which gives multiple benefits. It engages the next generation in the business and ensures they appeal to as wide and varied an audience as possible.

The Scotts have now held two successful online breeding sheep sales and a cattle sale at Fearn.

John says it will be fascinating to see how their online sales develop. There were fewer people in person than expected for their recent breeding sheep sale. Some had already seen the sheep on a prearranged viewing day and bid from home.

He says ideally they would like people to attend the day in person as socialising is important for their and customers’ wellbeing.

Selling online via Yourbid allows the Scotts to capture data, by sale day they know who has registered for the sale.

“Online selling opened up the whole of the UK and Ireland to buyers who are looking for stock produced sensibly as we do.”

John says auctioneers handled the money for the first Yourbid sale but the Scotts now handle it in house and save commission. If they do decide to bring buyers to the sale, the auctioneers will receive a commission.

He says auctioneers are unlikely to endorse online selling at this stage.

“They have certainly pushed back a little rather than embracing change and it’s maybe a step too far out of their comfort zone?”