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World travels spark belief in online livestock auctions

Insights
Ed Green is a beef farmer from Somerset, who, after travelling across the world for his Nuffield Scholarship, became convinced online auctions were the way forward.
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DURING his Nuffield scholarship, Ed Green travelled to the USA, Canada, Brazil, Uruguay, China, Northern Ireland and France in 2012 to 2013 to investigate opportunities for the UK beef industry and meet key beef industry figures around the world.

 

He learned how online livestock auctions were changing the way cattle and sheep were traded and believes they are the beginning of something new and a movement towards a different way of trading livestock in the UK.

 

Q: Do you think UK beef farmers try hard enough to market their own stock?

A: Buyers increasingly want to know more information about the livestock they are buying. They are also discontent with livestock, especially bulls, being fed to look good in a ring and then not being fit for purpose when brought home.

 

Q: You have recently set up an online a livestock auction site, why did you do this?

A: I set up Farmer Green Auctions after seeing online livestock auctions working in other countries during my Nuffield scholarship.

 

In my opinion online auctions save time and cost of haulage for both buyers and sellers, as well as being less stressful for the animals.

 

Vendors can sell stock to anyone with a phone, tablet or laptop, which is just about everyone, instead of just a few buyers stood around a ring.

 

Farmers can upload photos, videos and details about their stock, provide genetic breeding values, sire names, complete herd/flock health status, and farm assurance details allowing vendors to provide the information buyers need. Buyers can also ask questions about the stock or arrange to visit the stock on-farm.

Q: Where was the most impressive/memorable farm you visited on your Nuffield travels?  

A: There are many, but one would be visiting the back street meat and offal markets in Hong Kong and talking with meat importers down at the docks. It was fascinating to experience a completely different food and business culture and learn what is required for the UK to make the most of export opportunities there. 

Q: What advice have you got for farmers to improve their business?

A: Review the way you buy and sell livestock to ensure you are being as efficient and cost effective as possible. I genuinely believe online auctions will benefit everyone in the chain, whether you are a buyer or a seller, a breeder or a finisher, dairy, beef or sheep. 

Q: Do you prefer a particular breed and beef and why?

A: I think we should focus on what we are best at, what is in demand from consumers and what is marketable. For me, that all points to native breed cattle which are efficient at grazing the grass we grow in our wet, mild climate. Native breeds also already carry a brand and have demand in the consumer marketplace.

 

I do, however, appreciate farms and circumstances vary enormously across the UK and people have varying reasons for the breeds they use.

 

Ed Green Facts

A fifth generation beef, sheep and arable farmer, Mr Green runs his family farm in Somerset. The farm custom feeds beef cattle on contract for supermarkets using a forage-based system and rotational mob grazing in the summer. 

 

He has more than 20 years’ working knowledge in the beef and sheep sector and regularly speaks at agriculture conferences both in the UK and internationally.

 

He also won the sole UK scholarship place on the international 2013 Nuffield Global Focus Program and travelled to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US, Mexico and Brazil studying a cross sector of agricultural businesses.

 

Mr Green is the chairman of Meat South West and on the Eblex board and Nuffield scholarship trustee board.

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