IN a world of smartphones and high speed internet, there's never been an easier way to access cattle sales.
AustionsPlus, previously known as Computer Aided Livestock Marketing (CALM), has paved the way to allow producers buy and sell livestock from their own living room.
Chief executive officer Anna Speer is anticipating rapid growth in the AuctionsPlus technology platform over the next three years in order to provide site users with a platform that is mobile, user friendly, intuitive and informative.
"AuctionsPlus feels that as a leader in the ag industry we have a responsibility to provide not only the leading platform for marketing stock but also the necessary tools to ensure product integrity, on-going education and general awareness of good practices," Ms Speer said.
"AuctionsPlus will assist vendors with marketing and identifying their target audience and will also be promoting low stress stock handling practices at delivery.
"Assessor schools are commencing in March 2015 with Colac being first on the map.
"Although sales have strengthened since formerly coming online in 1998, Ms Speer said rural or isolated network coverage can severely affect communication during interface sales.
"It is the largest inhibitor for A+, particularly when we interface an online sale with a live physical on-farm stud or dispersal sale.
"Occasionally bids are taken from a car tooting their horn where the phone connectivity is boosted by the car kit, this is typically in very remote areas."
Ms Speer said poor internet connectivity can result in the buyer missing out.
"Our system alerts us to buyers that have dropped out due to their internet connection and we actively engage with them if this occurs to see if they need us to bid on their behalf.
"Alternatively, buyers can put limit bids in the system which automatically bid on their behalf. This is a useful tool if you need to go and do something else while the sale is on or want to take the emotion out of the purchase," Ms Speer said, adding she was a keen supporter of the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Working closely with rural agents is integral to the framework of AuctionsPlus, as live sales are broadcast and bids transmitted down telephone and internet lines across the country.
Landmark Emerald agent Matthew Beard has had 10 years of experience with the online sales platform and attributed positive outcomes and experiences to repeat business.
"We've had some terrific results when things are done well and when the vendor is willing to let us present their cattle in the most buyer friendly manner," Mr Beard said.
"The most important thing to the success of marketing cattle on AuctionsPlus is the integrity of the agent offering the cattle.
"Buyers must feel confident the agent will make sure the stock arrive exactly as described with the correct number delivered to ensure they have a good experience and want to continue to buy cattle on AuctionsPlus."
Mr Beard said vendors also needed to have good experiences and feel the listing fee is a cost that is good value in the transaction.
"We have selectively used AuctionsPlus when we think we can get a positive result and try to avoid just putting cattle on there for the sake of it.
"During times when cattle prices are strong, AuctionsPlus has worked well for some of the vendors' cattle I have marketed, but when the cattle market has been flat, it is tougher to attract the attention of buyers."
With 241,537 head of cattle sold through AuctionsPlus between January and December last year, an increase of more than 40,000 head on the 2013 figures, it's easy to assume the online saleyard is the way of the future and Ms Speer agrees.
"It is more cost effective, less stressful for the livestock and provides market access to a larger pool of buyers," Ms Speer said.
"Studs such as Temania and Palgrove reach buyers nationally and their stock travel interstate with both local and online purchasers buying at their sales."
"Quite often online bidders will push the price up at the physical sale significantly and the ability to show pedigree, videos, photos and EBV information is invaluable to buyers and on a number of occasions we have had buyers willing to pay more for stock after they have seen the video."
Forward-thinking cattle producers have embraced the technology available to them in AuctionsPlus and are able to use it to their advantage by potentially gaining a premium on their stock.
"The AuctionsPlus buyers and sellers are innovative and care greatly about how their stock are presented," Ms Speer said.
"Some use it for minimising their risk exposure as the reserve and removal of the freight costs protects them from a flat market and additional costs.
"Others are geographically challenged and use it to create competitive tension on their stock rather than send them direct.
"We have all the benefits of a normal saleyard with some additional kicks - we have a diversified range of users that feel the lower cost, less risk and greater access to buyers."
Although Queensland is the largest producer and exporter of the nation's beef, it falls far behind in online cattle sales with the majority of cattle sold to exporters.
"Our largest throughput region for cattle is NSW with 53,595 head in the last financial year, followed by Queensland at 37,893 YTD."
Moving forward, Ms Speer said AuctionsPlus would seek to engage further with users and create a space for live market data, opportunities to learn and up-skill users in marketing their stock.
"We want to provide an industry recognised tool, value adding to the Australian primary producer," Ms Speer said.
"We learn just as much from our clients as they do from us - working together we can target specific sale types, educate on good handling practices and identify trends where primary producers can get more bang for their buck."