TEAM (The Electronic Auction Market) Auction Sales of Calgary rolled out its new look with streaming video and audio broadcast over the Internet live from the International Livestock Auctioneering Championship hosted by the Calgary Stockyards (CSY) at Strathmore as part of Calgary Stampede week.
TEAM general manager Jason Danard says the event was a grand opening of sorts for the new broadcast service which highlights TEAM’s 25th year of operation under the ownership of CSY, which itself has a colourful history dating back to 1903 when it was established along the Canadian Pacific rail line in Calgary.
Video in conjunction with real-time online bidding and phone-in bidding, will now be used to broadcast live regular and special cattle sales at CSY, as well as off-site TEAM auctions of purebred cattle and agriculture-related products and services. CSY will also be making the video broadcast service available to other auction markets and auction companies that want to subscribe.
Streaming video and audio will replace still photos of cattle at ranches and feedlots giving a new look and feel to TEAM’s original electronic marketplace that runs without live sales in progress. For those sales, the computer automatically accepts online bids from registered, pre-approved buyers and the bidding activity is displayed on the screen just as it is during Internet broadcasts of live sales. Once the final bid is in on each lot, TEAM immediately contacts the seller by phone or email to confirm whether he or she will accept the bid.
The personal touch isn’t lost just because there isn’t an auctioneer calling the sale, Danard adds. TEAM agents work closely with sellers describing, photographing and videotaping the cattle at the farm or feedlot. Everything is co-ordinated through the central office in Calgary, making phone support readily available to sellers and buyers before, during and after the sale. TEAM also works with buyers to set up brand inspection and transportation. Financial transactions are handled through the Calgary office and commission is charged only when the cattle are sold.
Finished cattle are now scheduled to sell via the electronic format on Thursday mornings, followed by feeder cattle on Friday mornings. Though electronic sales do offer the convenience of being able to post notice of a sale quickly to respond to sellers’ marketing needs, Danard suggests contacting your TEAM representative to make arrangements at least a week ahead of your target sale date for finished and feeder cattle, cull cows, and cow-calf/bred heifer sales.
Purebred sales are a different matter. Dates are booked weeks or even months in advance to allow TEAM to promote the upcoming sale on its sales calendar and develop the sales catalogue and video and photos of each animal that is placed on the website well ahead of the event.
“A huge advantage of listing early for any sale is that the pictures, video and description of your cattle go up on the TEAM website right away, giving your cattle maximum pre-sale exposure,” Danard notes.
The industry’s acceptance of electronic auctions has been nothing short of phenomenal. It took 20 years for TEAM Auction Sales to reach the three-million-head mark, with much of that growth occurring since 2002, when the company was the first to introduce online cattle auctions with real-time Internet bidding. During the past five years alone, the number of cattle sold through TEAM has increased by another million even with numerous companies now in the electronic marketplace and others introducing alternative direct-marketing schemes for all classes of cattle.
The number of registered users (buyers and consignors) has jumped from 8,000 five years ago to 15,000 today and the user base has expanded from mainly the three westernmost provinces to points across North America. The website gets thousands of hits each week from observers following market trends because of the frequency of the sales, the sales volumes and the geographic location, Danard adds. TEAM sends email reminders to all registered buyers prior to select sales.
“Now, as the supply of cattle gets tighter and tighter, TEAM Auction Sales is giving buyers access to cattle from all over that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” Danard says. “At the same time, markets are becoming more and more global and producers are becoming more and more informed. Any given day, any class of cattle could be at the top of the market. With TEAM, sellers can always have access to the highest market.”
Danard learned the cattle-marketing business from the ground up, helping his dad, Don, at the Edmonton Stockyards. In 1988, the Danards moved to Calgary to join Will Irvine at the CSY. Irvine had taken a leap of faith two years earlier by leasing technology from the Ontario Livestock Exchange (OLEX), to introduce electronic marketing to Western Canada and coined TEAM as the name of the new service offered through CSY.
In Touch With The Times
At that time, electronic meant the use of datapac technology adopted from the banking industry. It was a closed-loop system that could accommodate up to 200 users at a time and was used almost exclusively for marketing fat cattle to packers.
TEAM played a central role in putting competition back into the fat cattle trade during a time when the whole business model was changing as the number of farmer-feeders was on the slide, while commercial feedlots grew in size and many were already dealing directly or aligning with packers. It was a more efficient way to sell fats, Danard says, but it lacked competition and the true price discovery inherent in the auction market system.
Though TEAM and OLEX used the same electronic technology in the days prior to the Internet, the companies are separate entities and have since gone their own ways to develop Internet-based technologies that suit the needs of their clients.
Despite advancements in the electronic cattle trade, Danard says there will always be a place for physical auction markets, though he suspects the sector will continue along the path of consolidation with the rest of the industry.
The electronic systems have largely been designed for trading liner load lots — about 40-some fats or 70-plus feeders, depending on their weights — because the buyers pay for trucking from the farm and ideally need to run with full loads. Auction markets, on the other hand, are designed to handle any lot size of all classes of cattle. Through continuous upgrades to their facilities and introducing new services, they have built up a dedicated following of seller and buyers.
CSY itself has undergone significant changes since the move to Strathmore in 1990. It proved to be a change for the better, offering easy access outside of big-city limits in a prime cattle area with lots of room to expand the infrastructure.
The penning areas for incoming and outgoing cattle have been completely rebuilt over time with steel pens on concrete throughout, with the exception of five large pasture pens for freshening long-haul cattle.
The facility is designed for efficient and low-stress flow of large volumes of cattle from the receiving end with three unloading chutes and two drive-through chutes, to the sorting and holding pens that can accommodate 5,000 head, through the floating ring scale, into the outgoing pens and on their way down the road through four loading chutes and a drive-through at the opposite end of the yard.
CSY runs regular sales every Thursday year round. Herd dispersals and bred cow and heifer consignment sales are slotted in on Wednesdays, and special calf sales are generally scheduled on Saturdays during the fall run, with production sales taking that time slot during the spring.
For more information contact CSY at 403-934-3344 or TEAM at 402-234-7429.