This year's ram selling season is going to be very different to previous years, with border lockdowns and travel restrictions moving buyers and sellers online, so what do you need to know before logging in to place a bid?
AuctionsPlus anticipates it will conduct 350 ram sales this spring, either as the principal selling platform or in conjunction with a regular on-property sale.
So far in SA, where ram sales are already in full swing, AuctionsPlus has conducted 15 per cent of their sales, with 50pc of the state's total sales recording at least one online bid.
JM Livestock principal Jim Meckiff, Wagga Wagga, NSW, has been assisting clients with online purchases and he believes sales through platforms like AuctionsPlus are here to stay even beyond COVID-19, so is recommending buyers and sellers get familiar with the process.
For prospective buyers, Mr Meckiff said they needed to be more prepared when buying online than if they were attending a sale in person.
He said there were a number of questions you needed to ask yourself and answer before making purchasing decisions.
"Do you know what your breeding objectives and requirements are?" he said.
"Could you articulate that to a stud breeder or an agent or advisor that might be buying on your behalf?
"Do you have a realistic budget and do you know your cost of production? As the flock rebuilds, we are going to see some extraordinary ram prices out there, we already are, so if you've got your sights set on the best genetics, make sure you're able to afford them.
"Have your target markets changed? You need to have a think about which market you're trying to meet to select the right genetics.
"And are you happy with your flock's current performance? Have you been able to benchmark your own performance against other producers in the area? Can you make a change and still be better off?"
Once you had answered these questions, he said the process of selecting a sire came down to balancing the overall suitability of a ram to your production system with the data and visual assessments you conduct.
"Australian Sheep Breeding Values are the best way to compare animals as you're all talking the same language and removing the environmental factors," he said.
"[But you should also take note] of the raw measurements, birth type and rear type, current environment, pedigree and the percentage of the drop offered."
He acknowledged there were different types of buyers out there, those that relied on visual assessment, those that preferred data, and those that needed both.
In an ideal world, he said buyers would be able to conduct a pre-sale inspection, but said that may not be possible for everyone.
"If you're having a pre-sale day, that gives every opportunity for prospective buyers to get hands on in a relaxed environment," he said.
"But if you can't get to an inspection date, buyers are going to be relying on photos and videos."
So he said vendors needed to offer high quality visual content online.
"You need good quality images and videos; if you're not too clever with an iPhone, use an experienced photographer or use a better quality camera," he said.
"Take the videos in uniform-sized pens with the animal moving around on a hard surface, moving side to side and back to front.
"These probably give buyers more of an opportunity to see how an animal moves than on sale day when they're all penned up.
"Take them in the same lighting and if you've got noise, like wind, in the background, mute your video."
He said written descriptions were also useful.
"We see those in the beef industry a bit, a couple of dot points can be quite helpful when you've got a wide variety of types in your catalogue," he said.
He said he had seen some creative catalogues out there already, with links to AuctionsPlus listings and other platforms that provided data.
Mr Meckiff said it was important for buyers to enquire about what quality assurance schemes or warranties vendors had in place.
"Certainly for buyers online, that gives them some assurance that if something doesn't turn up quite right, that they've got a bit of a fall back," he said.
He said for vendors, don't be tempted to list rams that might slip through.
"I'd really encourage breeders out there to only put up for sale the fit, willing and able participants this year," he said.
"Get your catalogues out there early and get your agents and classers working the phones."
Once you had done all of this research and preparation, on sale day, he said it was important to have a shortlist of your top preferences and also know the rams you had no interested in.
And if you're able to get to the sale, "don't be fooled into thinking a small crowd means you'll be getting bargains, I can assure you there will be a lot of online bidders".
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