Rebecca Harper

As bull sale season draws close, many breeders are playing a waiting game as to whether their traditional onfarm sales will go ahead in the current lockdown environment.

Angus NZ Association breed manager, Jane Allan, said it was a moving target in terms of the Covid-19 situation changing quickly and every breeder’s sale requirements were different, but the association was encouraging good communication.

“The one thing we have been doing is asking breeders to communicate with their stock and station agents to ensure whatever provisions they are trying to provide for their sale, those discussions are well advanced.

“Angus NZ is here to provide whatever support we can. We have a database that provides a platform for direct communication with Angus breeders throughout New Zealand.”

The New Zealand Hereford Association said it was still too early to say what advice it might give members.

PGG Wrightson National Genetics Manager, Callum Stewart, said the company had something in the works, but was unable to reveal exact details yet.

“Although times are uncertain at the moment in the current climate, one thing is for sure, the primary industries will carry on and continue carrying New Zealand through, as we always do,” Stewart said.

“With upcoming stud sales due for May/June, we’ve had to change the way things operate, and are lucky enough to be able to provide a world class platform for our breeders and studs. Bidr is New Zealand’s virtual sale yards and, for the farmer, includes benefits such as greater market access through being able to reach a national audience, more information, and more choice.”

PGG Wrightson Genetics was working hard on collaboration and solutions for its clients, Stewart said

“We have an exciting offer being released very soon, to assist with this, and make our breeders stand out on an even grander, national scale. Watch this space, we can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on and give our customers the chance to be part of the future, with online saleyards.”

For breeders Simon and Wendy Collin, of Rauriki Charolais at Flemington, it’s a waiting game to see if they will go ahead with their planned onfarm bull sale.

The Collins had planned to offer 25 for sale on May 26 in a traditional ring sale, and Simon Collin said they would make a definite decision by the end of April.

“We’ve already had discussions amongst ourselves as to exactly how we go about it. It is becoming a bit of a problem, we’re in limbo at the moment.”

Previously, they have sold bulls via a video sale, and that was a likely option if they were unable to hold an onfarm sale.

“We’ve done it before and have a good idea about how to run it, and feel we could confidently sell under that system.

“I believe we can do everything online, with good technology. Certainly, it’s one selling method that I think may be taken up this year.”

The big issue would be how farmers viewed bulls before purchase. “We’re trying to work through different scenarios if we’re still in lockdown and seeing what the best alternatives are. Perhaps there is potential for people to view bulls beforehand on a segregated basis.

“I know of a couple of studs that have already pulled pin (on farm sales), one guy has called his sale off and is ringing his clients, he feels he knows what they are looking for and is just going to send them bulls. He feels that’s the best way forward for himself and his business. But a lot of people like seeing breeding sires in person before purchasing.

“It’s interesting and challenging times and it’s about finding a way forward that is the best fit for us.”

Collin said beef genetic producers, along with stock and station agents, needed to develop a safe and effective plan for selling bulls in 2020.

It’s a similar situation for Jono and Sarah Reed at Grampians Angus, west of Culverden. Their onfarm sale is set down for June 12 and they hope to sell about 40 bulls. Those plans are now uncertain.

“Basically I see there are three options – it happens in June, we postpone until spring, or we sell some other way in June, like online,” Jono says.

“Definitely I’m thinking about it, trying to present the bulls for sale we’re already thinking about feeding them now. We don’t know what will happen (with the lockdown situation).”

The Reeds have been careful to diversify their income streams to ensure they are more resilient, but bull sales do represent about a third of their annual income.

“The bulls are the cherry on top for the business and they are definitely important, but we’re lucky we’ve tried to build a business that’s not just reliant on one thing.”

For now, Reed is keeping his finger on the pulse and feels there is still time for their on-farm sale to work – though June will creep around quickly and they will start to make a back-up plan soon.


In the cloud

Cloud Yards is a new online livestock quoting platform, delivering real time sales and buying options to all farmers.

Ed Wallace, of Ed Wallace Livestock, is a Cloud Yards founder and shareholder, along with six other North Island stock agents.

Wallace said it had nine agents covering the King Country, Whanganui, Manawatu, Rangitikei, Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa regions.

Cloud Yards was launched to give farmers, and agents, an extra tool in their kit when it came to quoting livestock.

“We wanted to keep up with the times and have something to offer our clients.”

Cloud Yards is not an auction site, rather it works by giving farmers easy and immediate access to livestock quotes using its broad network of agents across the country.

Farmers register, pick an agent in their area and then view listings. Transactions are done in the traditional way, if a farmer is interested in stock listed, they call their agent and the deal takes place from there.

“The deal is still done with the security of your reputable agent,” Wallace explains.

“It’s different to anything else out there in that it’s not an online auction site, it’s an online quoting site. It’s an extra tool to me, as an agent, to sell livestock.

“A lot of our clients are using it to gauge the market too and keep their finger on the pulse.”

In this Covid-19 environment, the added benefit for farmers who wanted to keep themselves and their family safe, was that stock could be viewed online from photos and videos.

Wallace said while Cloud Yards continued to operate as an essential service and agents were still able to visit farms to view stock to provide security and confidence to purchasers, there was an option for farmers to supply photos and videos themselves.

“The majority of times we view stock and check it off because, at the end of the day, we personally stand by and guarantee every line of stock.”

There is no cost to the farmer to list stock. “It’s a standard commission rate, like what you would normally negotiate with your agent. The transaction is still handled by your agent and payment terms are 14 days from sale.”

There are over 500 registered users, and that number has grown daily since Cloud Yards launched in October 2019.