Private sales of livestock may be increasing, but they do not come with the same guarantees as live marts and could leave farmers open to unfair prices and payment dodgers.
The warning comes from the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS) along with a reminder that the collective experience and bidding of farmers around a ring helps ensure a fair price for buyers and sellers.
Jim Craig, managing director of Craig Wilson Auction Mart, Ayr, said: “My late father used to say that a live auction was ‘justice being seen to be done’.
“What he meant was that live sales happen in the public domain, with a group of folk around the ring acting like a jury. Experience and knowledge is pooled and the audience works its way towards the price.
“With a private sale, however, the price is inevitably based on the going market rate, that being prices established at live marts, which takes in all shapes and sizes of livestock.
“How can the seller be sure their bargaining results in the best price as the buyer will want to spend as little as he can?”
Neil Wilson, executive director at IAAS, said marts also guaranteed the the seller is paid.
“Auctioneers chase money seven days a week, so a commission – perhaps £30-£40 for a £1,000 beast – can be the best insurance a seller takes out," Mr Wilson added.
“During the Covid pandemic, our care and diligence has not only helped keep the flow of trade moving in a safe way, but ensured we have a record of every person that comes on and off mart premises.
“Without the marts, this flow would have slowed as some farmers became restricted in their movements, while others drove from farm to farm putting themselves and others at risk, and with no record of who had been where.”