Cattle producers now have access to a free online tool which allows them to quickly compare the prices on offer for direct consignment to a range of processors and feedlots.
The tool, located on the new AgCentre website (www.agcentre.com.au), is compatible with smart phones and laptops and is the brainchild of two mates, Forbes Norton and Chris Hourigan, who met during officer training in the Army Reserve.
Mr Norton is a Gold Coast-based in-house solicitor for a large company but also helps manage his family's fourth-generation beef cattle operation at Mount Mitchell in the NSW New England.
Mr Hourigan provides IT support and development for the tool while well-known beef industry figure and Red Meat Advisory Council chairman, Don Mackay, is the strategic advisor.
Producers and their agents simply gain a login to the tool for free and then punch in the details of cattle they want to sell including numbers, liveweight, location, EU-status and breed.
The tool will then quickly compare the prices on offer in real-time from the publicly-available grids of major processors and feedlots including Teys, Thomas Foods, Bindaree, Borthwicks and NH Foods.
The AgCentre tool also provides an estimate of transport costs to various abattoirs and feedlots.
Mr Norton said the tool allowed producers and their agents, processors and feedlots to connect with each other more easily.
"There is no need for producers to seek out (individual) price grids by phone, email or fax," Mr Norton said.
"You put in the details and it shows you live prices for all those public grids."
The tool enabled producers to discover the best price and estimated overall net returns for their cattle and then can make contact with the processor or feedlot to discuss a sale or get more information.
Mr Norton said the price discovery service had the potential to alleviate ACCC and Senate pressure to publish price grids and in turn mitigated the risk of regulatory intervention to force mandatory price reporting on the industry.
Greater price discovery would also lead to better competition in the market, he said.
Mr Norton said they were hoping to attract processors and feedlots with non-public price grids. Producers would be required to provide a PIC to access this information.
"Historically processors have held grids close to their chest but grids are circulated widely through email and social media, so this platform allows them to take back control by directly targeting producers with live pricing," he said.
"It enables producers to access and compare like-for-like prices across Australia in one location. They are comparing 'apples to apples'," he said.
Mr Norton said they were looking to monetise the site through advertising but needed to build a solid base of producers.
He said the AgCentre online tool had the potential for processors and feedlots to expand their list of potential suppliers of cattle which could reduce their need to buy stock out of saleyards in times of shortages.
"We streamline the exchange of information between producers, agents and buyers so that you can connect with one another as smoothly as possible," Mr Norton said.
"This vision has remained unchanged as we continue to design, and refine, the platform in the pursuit of a more efficient industry.
"The real-time ability to send direct price signals to the market about desired cattle characteristics to meet customer needs further up the supply chain will maximise returns for the specification of cattle they need."