Online bidding system at Aberdeen and Northern Marts proves successful

Despite the challenges and changes which the auctioneering industry is facing throughout this global pandemic, Aberdeen and Northern Marts has continued to operate in new ways to ensure sales actively continue, while adhering to government guidelines.
Since the country went into lockdown, staff at Aberdeen and Northern Marts have worked extremely hard to ensure that ANM Group members and customers have the support they need during these unprecedented times.
In response to social distancing, the firm first launched the online bidding system at its store sale on Friday, March 20th, giving buyers an alternative option to attending the mart.
Over the past eleven weeks, the firm has traded more than 16,000 store cattle and held its first online multi-breed pedigree bull sale on May 12, as well as four commercial breeding cattle sales throughout April and May.
“Our online bidding system is proving very successful with old and new customers joining the system every week to source all classes of livestock,” said John Angus, head of livestock at Aberdeen and Northern Marts.
“We’ve consistently had in excess of 300 people simply viewing the sale in addition to those registered to bid. We appreciate the support from all buyers and of course the sellers who have faith in us marketing their livestock throughout this pandemic. Thanks, must also go to the hauliers who are adhering to the new measures which have been put in place.”
While the online bidding system has been well supported at Thainstone and Caithness sales over the last few months, the store cattle sales have attracted a maximum of 58 active bidders in the ring at Thainstone every week, with more buyers situated in an overspill out with the sale ring until a space becomes available.
The firm’s popular commercial beef breeding cattle sales have been held in the Exchange Hall to allow more buyers to attend the sale, with more than 90 bidders present at the sale held on May 19.

Latest statistics show that the online bidding system has supported as many as 71 registered buyers at the firm’s store cattle sale on Friday, March 27, with many other sales attracting more than 50 registered buyers.
At the firm’s second breeding sale held at Thainstone in May, 10% of the cattle forward sold to bidders online, while 8% of cattle sold at one of the firm’s largest store cattle sales went to bidders online.
“Our busiest period has drawn to a close now and trade throughout has been good, with all classes easily sold,” said John Angus, pointing out that 2,051 store cattle were sold through the centre on May 1.
“The store cattle trade has moved considerably in the last fortnight in line with the prime trade, with the weekly sale on Friday, May 22, averaging 10p per kg dearer. Stots levelled at 229.3p and heifers at 224.2p.”
The firm also held its first online multi-breed pedigree bull sale on Tuesday, May 12 at Thainstone Centre, with bulls selling the length and breadth of the UK.
Held in conjunction with SellMyLivestock, the online sale allowed buyers to bid from home and view videos and still pictures of the bulls prior to being sold.
The sale attracted an offering of 32 pedigree bulls from well-known herds across the country and saw a total of 59 online bidders register ahead of the sale.
Bulls sold as far south as Norfolk and Cornwall, with others selling to beef producers in Caithness and Orkney.
The Limousin breed proved the easiest to cash and enjoyed a 100% clearance when the six bulls forward cashed in to average £4498.
A top price of 8000gns was paid for a black Limousin bull from Albert and George Howie’s Knock herd at West Knock, Stuartfield, Peterhead, when sold to WG Beattie and Son, Tulliewhanland, Forfar.
This was Knock Nike, a November, 2017-born son of Foxhillfarm Justthejob, bred out of Knock Jilly, which had gained much interest prior to the sale through advertising on social media and the mart’s website.
As well as buyers benefitting from the online sales, the new platform has been a huge advantage to sellers, allowing customers to watch the sales from home and see their stock sold.
In particular, those over the age of 70 who regularly attend the mart but couldn’t due to government guidelines, were able to sit at home and simply watch the trade each week or source cattle.  
Throughout April and May, breeding cattle have also sold well under the new restrictions, with a total of 479 heifers with calves at foot having sold to date to average £2423.27.
At the firm’s first breeding sale on April 28, 211 adult head averaged £2517.91 (+£96.48 on the year), with 14 outfits selling at £3000 or above.
They sold to a top of £3850 for a Limousin cross heifer with Limousin cross bull calf at foot from Messrs Ewart, Easter Dounie, while the annual consignment from Towiemore peaked at £3300.
The reduction sale from Cameron MacIver, Wester Coltfield, Kinloss, attracted a packed ringside of registered bidders at Thainstone and online.
Trade reached a top of £3000 twice, while the herd’s former 2015-born Charolais stock bull Balmyle Logic, realised £6800gns.
The Meikle Geddes part dispersal sale held on the same day peaked at £3250 for a cow with a spring-born heifer calf, while the herd’s former Limousin stock bull, made £4600.
Prime and cull cattle manager Tim McDonald, reported a 6p increase in the cull cow trade over the last fortnight, with more suppliers coming forward due to fast food restaurants opening up again.
Mr McDonald also praised the online bidding system and said it had opened up new doorways to south abattoirs and new butchers.
He said: “The cow ring has welcomed registered bidders from abattoirs situated in the south which have never had the chance to buy at Thainstone before. Butchers who can’t leave their shops to attend the mart are also now able to purchase prime cattle over the internet, welcoming new and old customers.”
In the sheep, ewes with lambs at foot have been selling well at Thainstone, with 500-600 adult held sold every week.
“Trade for ewes and lambs has been strong and the online bidding system has also been proving popular amongst sheep producers, with buyers registering online every week,” said Colin Slessor, deputy head of livestock at Thainstone.
“There seems to be a lack of young stock forward this year so gimmers and hoggs with lambs at foot have been selling at £80 to £90 per head.”
Mr Slessor said that trade has exceeded numbers forward, with Mule cast ewes with twin lambs at foot regularly making £60 to £68 per head and continental cross and stronger ewes with top-end lambs realising £70 to £80 per life.
The firm has continued to hold its prime sheep sales every week throughout the pandemic and although numbers were initially restricted due to the limited demand, these numbers have come back, with trade rising week on week.
“We held our largest sale of 3,175 prime lambs on April 23, to average 204.5p,” said Mr Slessor.
“Our sales of new season lambs have commenced and again, are trading ahead of last year, with 352 sold on May 21 having averaged 239.9p.”
Cull ewe numbers are now starting to reduce, with trade less than it was before the pandemic. Lean, meaty ewes continue to still be very much in demand.
As numbers weaken throughout the summer season, Aberdeen and Northern Marts has decided to move store cattle sales to fortnightly from now until September 1 aiming to strengthen sales, which in turn will attract more buyers.