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John Scott: Balancing the buzz of the ring with the comfort of online bidding

John Scott at one of his on-farm livestock sales.
John Scott at one of his on-farm livestock sales.

For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed attending auction markets for sales all over the country.

To be honest I enjoy the rush, whether it’s sheep or cattle. I get a buzz from attending even more so if I’m buying, that’s when it gets really exciting.

It’s a combination of sights, sounds and smells, top quality livestock, the rhythmic lilt of the auctioneer and the smell of the mart which, combined with the pressure of buying the right animal at the right price, gives that unique sensory experience.

Conversely when selling livestock through the ring, it’s the opposite for me.

I don’t sleep the night before; I feel sick on the lead up to the sale and can’t wait to get out of the ring when the stock have been sold.

It’s no surprise that I feel a range of emotions really. I have been around long enough now to realise that farming will ensure you explore your full range of emotions on a regular basis.

Selling stock in the ring can be stressful for farmers.

Sale day pressure was one of many reasons we started our own on-farm sale of tups 10 years ago. The decision wasn’t taken lightly but we felt it was the right move for us; thankfully it worked and we haven’t looked back since.

With Covid changing the way we live our lives we were forced to adapt further and used the Youbid online platform last year, which has a Helmsman style format where the whole sales finishes at the same time.

I didn’t know what to expect but by 10pm the night before 80% of the sheep had bids and I slept like a baby.

The final hour of bidding was one of the most exciting experiences I have had selling livestock and the following week when the boot was on the other foot and I was buying using the same platform again I felt the rush.

Our customers enjoyed the flexibility of the process which allowed them to bid from wherever they wanted to with internet connection.

This year they will hopefully come to the farm where they can bid online, hand in bidding slips or ask an auctioneer to bid for them, which would of course trigger commission for the auctioneer whichever company they were from.

I have no doubt that online selling has a big part to play in the future of the Scottish livestock industry.

It’s up to us to grasp the technology available, ensuring that as an industry we keep evolving.

If online selling gives us an opportunity to expand our customer base whilst still providing that unique environment for farmers and crofters to gather to socialize we should embrace it with both hands.

  • John Scott is an award-winning beef and sheep farmer from Fearn Farm in Easter Ross. He is hosting his next on-farm sale, via the Yourbid system, on Friday August 27.

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