Rayner Reckons

Nov 29

Buying Livestock Online?

Posted on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Over the last year or so, I’ve been watching the rapid growth of livestock selling on line.  Now, on line selling is not actually a new concept.  In Australia we have had AuctionsPlus that is the largest online seller of livestock in the country.  AuctionsPlus was preceded by CALM – Computer Aided Livestock Marketing.

One of the great developments with the online livestock marketing has been the creation of objective terms to describe cattle and sheep.  The language we use to describe fatness and muscle score was a direct outcome from the move to sell livestock objectively, and more importantly digitally.

So to me, on line marketing of livestock is a standout for the agricultural industry.

I guess I’m not the only one to be excited by the opportunities that on line selling offers.  After all it’s a very inexpensive way to advertise.  You can advertise with pictures as well as written descriptions.  And now with the creation of Internet sites like Gum Tree, you can pretty much buy and sell anything!

At the same time, you only need to browse through Facebook to see any number of pages that range from “Buy, Sell or Swap” to specific pages selling livestock.  Now, I guess that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  At the end of the day, it’s a way for people to sell livestock in a manner that works best for them.  It also means you might find an opportunity to purchase something you’ve been looking for.

But just because you are selling or buying through Facebook or Gum Tree, you still have to ensure you comply with the legislation that exists around livestock sales and movements. 

This means you need to ensure that you comply with the NLIS requirements.  So if you are buying animals, you will need to ensure that the animals are transferred on the NLIS database to your PIC.  If you are selling you have to make sure the animals are tagged with an approved NLIS tag and that you also must complete a current National Vendor Declaration (NVD).  Remember the NVD can be used as your Transported Stock Statement. 

These points are important to remember, particularly if you are a small or new producer.  However your animals are part of the industry, and so traceability is just as important regardless of buying on line from a Facebook page or through the sale yard system.  And in regards to transported stock statements, the legislation means police or stock inspectors have a duty to ask for yours.  So don’t get caught!

The other part of buying on line from various sites is for you to ensure you consider the risks to your business.  In the first instance you need to consider the usual issues of biosecurity. So think about quarantining new livestock to minimize the spread of weeds or parasites. 

I’d also think its pretty important you do your homework on just what it is that you are buying.  In the Auctions Plus system, you have the assurance that an accredited assessor describes all animals.  You can check their status, and if the animals don’t meet the description you can speak to Auctions Plus about the issue.  

In generic sales pages, you won’t have that fall back.  You really are making a choice to accept another person’s description.  So if the animal isn’t what you expect, is lighter, heavier, more stirry than you expected, you have no comeback.  That’s part of buyer beware and I guess it applies to any purchases we make.  But it’s important that you do the risk assessment first, cover all the options and then you can at least feel you’ve done as much as you can.

I reckon on line selling in all their forms, are going to be part of how we do business into the future.  So why not make the most of the opportunities.  Just don’t let the convenience of looking on line become complacency or laziness! If you do your homework and make sure you meet your obligations for identification, traceability and movement restrictions, then I reckon the online world can be another tool in your business toolbox.  

Nov 12

Why we need the NLIS

Posted on Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A few days ago I was chatting with a beef producer from Northern NSW about my recent overseas trips to China and Malaysia.  He was very interested in the work I was doing with supply chains in Malaysia. However he was much more interested in my take on the Chinese expectations for food to be safe and healthy.

As we talked about my experiences, he asked me what I thought about criticisms of the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS).  I reckon I should share my response to that question.  The NLIS is absolutely essential to our industry and essential for any beef producer serious about their business.

I have to admit I feel so incredibly frustrated when I hear claims of how much NLIS costs individual producers, what a burden it is, and how it achieves nothing. 

Our industry has so many unique advantages.  We have an international reputation for the safety of our food; the quality of our food and the reliability of our supply chains.  As I've said before, this reputation has been earned, but is underpinned by our ability to trace and prove our cattle are exactly what we claim them to be.  

We export to over 140 countries.   Without our ability to prove our integrity of supply and safety, plenty of those countries wouldn't buy our product.  There are other countries who want to take our share of these markets.  They can probably do it more cheaply than we can.  Yet we keep that share because consumers value safety and health when it comes to their food.  

I reckon if we lost a few export markets the flow on effect to farm gate prices would be significant.  So at that level NLIS is essential.

So how much does NLIS cost an individual?  I spent a little time looking at the NLIS tag costs on line.  The price per tag ranged from $2.70 to $3.50

Now some people will instantly multiply these figures by the number of animals they own and tell me the cost is crippling them. Instead of arguing next time I'm going to ask what is their actual Cost of Production for a kilogram of beef. 

The last time I did that, the person didn't know.  If you know your Cost of Production you can start to hone in on costs, like NLIS.

A couple of years ago I had a producer show me their figures for their Cost of Production per kilogram.  

They spent: * 0.6c on animal health

* 3.2c on Drench 

*7.5c on commission

*14.7c on Fertiliser

Their NLIS cost was 0.8c. This operation was an EU Accredited operation and had over 3300 cows. All of these had NLIS tags, yet the cost of this was less than a cent per kilogram of beef!   

For producers who use NLIS in most basic form, to transfer sale cattle off their property, the cost per kilogram of beef is much lower than 0.8c

For the producers I work with, minimising costs is one thing.  However we know costs only account for 20% of the variation in an enterprises Cost of Production figures.  The kilograms of beef produced per hectare accounts for 80% of the variation.  If you are serious about becoming more profitable, you are much better off focussing on improved production.

In this case NLIS is a vital tool to record and monitor the essential parts of your herds production.  I reckon if you can't identify a cow which hasn't or doesn't calve every 12 months you are already losing kilograms of beef per hectare.  If you can't monitor growth rates to a target market specification, you are potentially missing the full grid price for your cattle.  If you can't identify the calves of the sire you spent $4000, can you tell if those genetics are taking your enterprise in the right direction?

I'm passionate about helping producers achieve their goals for production and profitability.  If we can't measure how we are going, we can't manage what we are doing, and we won't achieve those goals.  

So I reckon if you are really serious about making money in beef production, NLIS is essential to you and to the industry.  


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