Dr Danny Donaghy is professor of dairy systems at Massey University and a specialist in pasture agronomy and physiology.
The MyLivestock hybrid auction platform, which combines saleyard, farm and online auctions, was developed ahead of last year's lockdown.
NZ Farmers Livestock general manager livestock, Bill Sweeney, says fortuitously, it was ready to launch when the 2020 Covid lockdown was announced. Farmers were able to choose whether to physically or virtually attend a stock sale.
The ability to 'virtually' attend a stock sale opened the country up - farmers were suddenly able to bid at any sale around New Zealand without leaving the farm and they could confidently bid in real time knowing transport and NAIT requirements would be attended to, and the stock would duly arrive on farm. It was a whole new environment and one which farmers embraced," says Sweeney.
"Providing an online option for farmers to attend and bid at stock was a concept we'd been developing for some time.
"Traditionally farmers are often faced with a day's travel to attend a sale and the demands of farming often make this very difficult.
"We wanted to give them options - of either attending any sale in New Zealand on their mobile or home computer."
The online option didn't replace physically attending sales however.
Sweeney notes that stock sales have an important social function in rural communities.
"This is true especially in tough times and so, throughout Levels 3 and 2 in 2020, we continued to have a good number of farmers attend our sales under strict Covid guidelines.”
Sweeney says the hybrid auction platform will, once again, bolster the beef and dairy industries during the current Covid restrictions.
NZ Farmers Livestock’s 2021 Spring bull sale calendar is one of the largest ever. It has a record number of bulls coming forward at 30 sales across the North Island – all of which will continue under Level 3 and 2.
Around 1,000 mainly yearling Jersey, Hereford and Angus bulls will go under the hammer at sales during September and October, in the main on the respective breeder’s farm.
“We are delighted with the overall quality of bulls which will satisfy the demands of beef and dairy farmers – short gestation, low birth weight and easy calving. All bulls are BVD tested and inoculated,” says Sweeney.
He says strict operating procedures apply at all NZ Farmers Livestock bull sales.
“Attendance at stockyard and on-farm sales is limited to those interested in buying, those required to operate the sale, a limited number of vendor representative agents and stock handlers.
“As farm and stockyards are classed as work places there is no attendance maximum but social distancing and other Covid safety requirements apply.
“To inject some fun into proceedings, at the end of the bull sale calendar we will hold a draw for a cash payment of $2,500 for a lucky farmer who bought or booked their purchase at one of our on farm sales – every bull purchase going into the draw.”
Contact tracing QR codes will be on display at all sites.
The names and contact details of all those attending saleyard and on-farm sales will be recorded either via the Contact Tracing QR app or manually.
All buyer registration, post purchase confirmation, NAIT transfers, and carrier selection/arrangement (delegated to agents to arrange) will be handled outside of the immediate sale area.
Any person infected with or displaying any symptoms of Covid-19, or who is a vulnerable person (by virtue of their age, underlying health condition, clinical condition or are pregnant), or with any concerns that they may have been exposed to Covid-19, are prohibited from entering the site.
Social distancing, hand washing/sanitising and related PPE (masks and gloves will be available, and use in line with government direction required). High use contact services are regularly sanitised.