Online livestock sales heat up
Many farmers, maybe even you, are jumping on the information superhighway, selling cattle, hogs, horses, sheep and goats online. It now makes sense to develop farm websites and post pictures and videos of animals for sale.
• Online buying and selling of livestock is no longer a novelty.
• Some breeders hold online-only sales before a traditional seasonal sale.
• The quality of the livestock photographer can make or break an online auction.
Why drive several hundred miles to a replacement heifer sale when the auction is live online? When the animals are video-taped as they walk through the sale ring, with close-up shots and pedigrees read, a farmer in Maine can sit at his kitchen table, sip coffee, and buy cattle from a rancher in South Dakota or Texas.
Companies like Willoughby Sales and Caldwell-Willoughby Sales have been at the forefront of this digital explosion, which is helping producers all across the country market animals.
Dan Willoughby, of Willoughby Sales, Sheridan, says his company sells more dollars worth of show lambs and breeding stock than any other site in the U.S. Caldwell-Willoughby Sales, operated in part by Todd Caldwell, Elmwood, Ill., caters to the bovine industry. It’s an online auction site for show steers and breeding cattle.
Digital livestock photography and marketing has grown due to economics, convenience and keeping up with the times. People jump online to find about anything they need.
The change has moved livestock photography to a higher level. These people are doing the artistic work behind an advertisement that might sell a bull for $100,000. Yes, sometimes there are some creative measures taken, and the visual image alone may be a bit misleading. However, like any ad slick, these photos and flyers grab attention. They may prompt a phone call. Or maybe print media leads someone to a website with streaming video.
It’s best to view livestock through videos when available, but Willoughby believes that responsibility lies on both sides of the table when it comes to online purchases.
“Make sure that you’re dealing with credible consignors, and do your research before you bid,” Willoughby says.
Many worry they’re purchasing airbrushed artwork instead of a functional, productive animal. Misrepresenting your livestock can lead to the end of sales, because customer service is the best policy.
“Shoot the story straight,” Willoughby says. “Tell the good things about the animal, and also the bad things because you want return customers. If a customer asks you about the flaws, be honest, or you’re only hurting yourself.”
First-time online consignors need to find a sales agent who has a good reputation and is very clear in discussing their services from fees to video production. Consignors should be familiar with how online auctions work and what’s expected in terms of animal delivery. There should be no surprises on either end.
Good contracts and communication between online broker, consigner and buyer are essential in a cyber world, Willoughby says.
Livestock photographers must be good. They have to know the latest in digital photography, as well as how to edit videos and photos. If you’re hiring a photographer, do your research. View a potential photographer’s work online and in print.
“Hire someone who will get the job done,” Willoughby says. “Hire someone who will show up, be on time, and above all else, understands livestock and livestock arrangements.”
Dickerson is a senior in Purdue University Ag Communications.
This article published in the April, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.