Zanna Dennis on technology at marts.
As I write these words, I am acutely aware that I have never picked up the gavel. I can assure you, however, I have spent many an hour in the rostrum as a clerk, before joining the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA) as development officer in December 2020.
Embarking on this new role at a pivotal time for our industry has been eye-opening in truly understanding the breadth of work the LAA undertakes on behalf of its members to secure the future of our markets and support a thriving red meat sector.
While parts of industry may appear to prefer alternative sales outlets and systems that play to the hand of the buyer, and the threat of regulation that is out of touch with working practice with potentially damaging consequences, the LAA is far-reaching and resolute in its approach to ensure a competitive and transparent market place that offers farmers a fair price, representative of current market trends, placing the power back in the hands of the producer.
As the figures rolled in for our member markets’ throughput last year, they revealed an increase in almost every sector and impressive totals of more than 11 million animals, and turnover of £1.8 billion, despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and reduction in production numbers. The livestock market once again has proved its value, resilience and relevance.
To those who see the live auction ring as an outdated system, I will let these figures do the talking, highlighting once again the livestock market’s ability to continually adapt to meet the demands and requirements of both vendor and buyer, as well as being at the forefront of livestock traceability and welfare standards, with an unbeatable 200-year track record.
Echoing the many voices before me, amid the Covid-19 pandemic when alternative and online sales platforms should have flourished, the live auction ring has continued to thrive, surpassing all expectations in terms of trade and throughput.
Markets have worked hard to adapt their operations, becoming more efficient and effective, to meet the challenges faced by the pandemic.
For many, this has included introducing new technology, such as incorporating real-time, online bidding into live sales for those unable to attend in person.
Introducing live streaming, bringing the ‘buzz’ of the live ring direct to the living room, and utilising social media to promote the value of the livestock market; an approach that will only strengthen markets going forward.
So much so, the LAA’s Next Generation Group, an important platform for young auctioneers and fieldsmen to voice their views and concerns on industry matters around their peers, and to the LAA council, have made it a priority to explore the potential of social media and technology to effectively engage the next generation of farmers using our livestock markets.
Relaunching later this month, the group will be joined by social media influencer and director of Pastures Green Communications, Amy Eggleston, aka @thedairydaughter on Instagram, for a virtual meeting to explore how the rise of the agri-influencer and social media platforms can connect working practice on the farm with the value of the live auction ring.
It is without doubt our industry faces huge challenges ahead, however I remain confident in the strength and resilience of our livestock markets and the commitment of the LAA to champion and support our members and the wider red meat sector, to thrive for years to come.
I must take this opportunity on behalf of the LAA to thank all our members for their hard work and vigilance in such challenging times to ensure the safe and successful operation of markets and to the farmers who once again put their trust in the live auction ring.
As the vaccine roll-out brings a glimmer of the return to normality, I look forward to welcoming back farmers to our markets who make them the important social hub they are, and meeting and working with many more of you in person in the coming months.