Report

Ready, Steady, Sell

17th September 2014

Jamie McInnes Jamie McInnes

Please note: the views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SellMyLivestock.

When Dan Luff and Jamie McInnes left school, they never imagined that one day they’d be the faces behind a concept that could change livestock sales for years to come. Their website, SellMyLivestock, has been branded as the ‘third option’ for selling livestock, and provides farmers a means to sell their animals online with plenty of perks.

Launched on 5 June, the website has already captured a dedicated following, and within the first six weeks of going live, over 600 farmers and 2,000 cattle have registered, accumulating into 100,000 website visits. “We like to think of it as an eBay for livestock,” said Dan, who farms his own herd of beef cattle in Hampshire. “The task of phoning around to see who was offering the best price seemed archaic and we realised that in the long term, something needed to be done to give the industry a boost.” So two years ago, the boys put their heads together and came up with a concept that could offer farmers a way to lower costs, improve traceability and even reduce the risk of disease.

Dan had already experienced the cost of trying to sell his livestock and attempting to achieve a good deadweight price. After trying to find a substitute that was hosted online with no luck, he got in touch with his old school friend and web developer Jamie.

“I don’t have any background in farming – in fact, the only link I have to farming is that I married an arable farmer’s daughter,” Jamie said. “I didn’t know a lot about cattle, but I knew about online trading and the art of setting the website up, so together we set about constructing a skeleton to show to the likes of EBLEX, the NFU and the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS).”

How the site works is simple; users sign up and wait for approval. As soon as the account is approved, you’re walked through step-by-step to register your livestock. Jamie said: “We’ve integrated the BCMS database for farmers that are selling cattle, so you can download herd information with a click of a button.”

For your first try, there is no commission, and if you don’t sell your animals there is no fee. For every sale after your first, the site takes just 1.5 per cent commission. On average, savings of £23 per head of cattle can be made by selling through the website and lots are sold as a full amount, not per head.

“In this day and age, farmers don’t have the time on their hands that they used to,” said Dan. “Sell My Livestock is great for convenience, there are no transport costs, commission is reduced and really, it helps improve animal welfare as the livestock aren’t being unnecessarily transported.”

However, both Dan and Jamie wholeheartedly believe the success of their system relies majorly on trust, and both of them have made it their mission statement to ensure there is transparency and guidance in place for both buyers and sellers.

“We don’t think the system is going to change trading overnight,” Jamie said. “I can’t think of any form of trading that doesn’t have an online version or an electronic counterpart. The system is designed to bring benefits to everyone and we’ve put all we can in place to make the system as robust and secure as possible.”

In order to protect their users, those that register have to be approved before they can use the full website.

Dan said: “The approval allows us to protect our users and the website, it adds another degree of trust which is something we value.” The pair aren’t unambitious with their goals of seeing the website as a recognised route to market, and they’re developing a smartphone app as another added convenience and a great way to expand their horizons. With this new app, users can edit their content straight from the shed, even filming their cattle and uploading it on the spot.

“There’s a new generation of farmers coming through that are confident with technology and aware of the shift in agriculture,” Dan said. “I do think the industry has got to change in order to keep up with the sector. Just look at how tight our margins are being squeezed – we need to look at ways to improve the system within the UK.

“Perhaps we could achieve that through improving genetics, efficiency with labour, embracing new technology and farm software, and of course, looking at other options when it comes to trading livestock.” It’s safe to say that Sell My Livestock has secured itself a previously unfilled gap in the livestock and trading market and only time will tell of its success. Why not give it a go?

Original Source: NFU Farmer & Grower Sept 2014

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