Ease and accessibility of virtual livestock sales has seen auction marts invest in digital technology in response to fluctuating Covid-19 restrictions.
Harrison and Hetherington (H&H) adopted the technology in May to help navigate challenging conditions, a move which it says has helped it achieve an overall operating profit of £742,000 this year and record trading volumes in Q4.
Richard Rankin, H&H Group chief executive, said: “Timed auctions developed out of necessity to keep specialist pedigree sales going and feedback from buyers and sellers has been excellent, with many farmers enjoying browsing at their leisure.
“To operate as safely as possible, H&H marts have become functional, with only a quarter of the normal footfall and a buyers-only policy, but this has come at a loss of humanity and warmth.
“But the mood remains fairly optimistic, helped by great prices, and our marts are up this year on throughput numbers.
“There is a general feeling among farmers that marts across the UK have worked well to keep operations running and Covid-19 has helped showcase the transparency and fairness of trading at marts.”
Mr Rankin added the company was looking to invest more than £100,000 in a bespoke online system which incorporates online selling and accounts to aid a smoother experience for buyers and sellers.
On Brexit, Mr Rankin said he was fearful small to medium sized family farm businesses could be marginalised through a potential race to the bottom in terms of food quality, driven by economics and prices.
“Another concern is the uncertainty surrounding tariffs, with some nervousness among buyers about what markets will still be there,” he added.
H&H recently commissioned research via the Family Business Network to canvas the opinions of the next generation.
“They are the future of our business so it is important to hear those voices,” he said.
“There is no point gearing up the business if we are making something nobody wants in the future.”