Yourbid was developed by Meadowslea Angus and Sheep Genetics - a family farming business in Fairlie, New Zealand - during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
New Zealand was under strict level-4 lockdown from March.
Meadowslea needed an online system to hold the In-Calf Female sale during this period - and after a few weeks of head-scratching Yourbid was born!
The system works as a Helmsman-style auction - meaning all lots are offered for sale simultaneously.
Other online livestock sales platforms in New Zealand all use the traditional sequential auction model, whereby each lot is sold one at a time, one after the other. Our system uses the "Helmsman" style of auction. This means that all the lots on the sale are open for bidding at the same time, which is helpful for both buyers and sellers, and particularly when conducted online. We also keep the bidding open over a period of several days, rather than the minute or so per lot of a conventional auction.
A key difference of our platform compared to any other we have seen is the bidding screen which shows the current prices of all lots simultaneously. Reserve prices are shown in red for a start, this changes to blue once the first bid is received, and the buyer number of the current leading bidder is displayed. New bids are highlighted in orange for a minute. Buyers who are logged in on their own device see the lots they lead the bidding on highlighted in green. This gives an instant overview of the auction so anyone can see on which lots the activity and interest is, making it easy to establish their relative market values.
All online models have some level of time delay between when events happen on-site and when they are seen by remote buyers. For a traditional sequential auction a delay of 15-20 seconds can be very significant, when each animal might only be in the ring for 90 seconds or so. By keeping the entire auction open for a longer period of time this problem is mitigated significantly. It also means the sale will not be affected significantly by any termporary technological glitches.
Selecting bulls and rams to use is a major decision for sheep and beef farmers, and one which will have significant impacts on their operations for years to come. Farmers need time to gather and process information to make these decisions. This is even more important when buying remotely, when information gathering is more difficult and takes time – meaning remote buyers are significantly disadvantaged at an online sequential auction. Our system gives buyers this extra time, and by integrating the bidding on our own website alongside the online catalogue, videos of each lot and a live commentary we have made the information more readily available to the buyers. Rather than turning up on a given day and viewing all the animals in that tight time-frame, buyers can go through the catalogue, view the videos, and bid at their leisure from home over the period of several days the sale is open.
Another advantage of a Helmsman-style auction is that it allows buyers to bid on stock in the order of their preference, rather than the catalogue order. For instance, as a buyer you might be interested in lot 8 and lot 12. At a traditional auction, lot 8 comes into the ring and isn’t selling for too much, however lot 12 is your first preference so you decide to wait for that animal to come into the ring. Lot 12 comes in, sells for too much money, and you can’t go back and bid on lot 8 because that animal is sold. Under the Helmsman system buyers can chop and change throughout the bidding. We have analysed the bidding data for the sales we have run already, and it is obvious that a lot of buyers will bid on a certain lot to a particular level, then change to another lot, then perhaps go back to the first, or move onto a third animal they like. Some buyers bid on as many as 8 different animals to get the one they wanted – in a conventional auction they would have missed out completely or ended up with one that wasn’t in their top-10 at all. By running the auction over a longer period, those who missed out on their first choice were able to go back through the videos and catalogue (or back through the pens for those who were actually onsite) and pick another animal they were satisfied with.
Integration of on-farm and on-line bids is crucial to the success of a platform like this. Our system worked by having a large TV on-farm displaying the bidding screen. Buyers on-site can bid through their smart phones, and those bids are displayed in real time. Some buyers will still prefer to attend on-farm and bid using pieces of paper as per a traditional Helmsman sale – they write their buyer number, their lot number, and the bid price on a piece of paper an hand it in – we are able to enter this directly into the online system so it shows up on-screen in real-time as well.
By providing a live-chat on the platform, we allowed potential buyers to ask us questions, request another closer view or more information about a particular lot, and even send us jokes and one-liners. We produced our online videos and the livestreamed commentary through Facebook Live. All this made for a much more engaging and entertaining environment for the buyers, compared to what we feel are the sterile and austere atmosphere of some of the established online platforms.