Best practice at livestock auctions

Every day animals are traded at sale venues across the country. In the formal sector, auction houses manage the livestock trade through their saleyards. Established auction house Vleissentraal holds about 1 700 auctions a year at its facilities, where agents and auctioneers work to get the best prices for buyers and sellers while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the animals.

Livestock auctions are an essential component of the red meat value chain. Farmers depend on them to market their animals and as a reliable pricing mechanism.

Best practice at auction house saleyards begins on the farm, before the animals are transported. Competent stock handling avoids stress during herding and loading. Selling animals at nearby venues cuts down the stress of long-distance transport and reduces ‘animal shrinkage’, which varies from 4% to 9% depending on the distance. 

Livestock should be transported, according to the prescribed SABS standards, in well-ventilated trailers designed to accommodate animals comfortably without overcrowding.Trailer floors should have grids or cleats to prevent slipping and falling, and gaps in the trailer sides should be small enough to contain the animals. Bruising, injury and stress will affect the farmer’s profit, says Vleissentraal agent Lizemari de Klerk. “When farmers have made sure the equipment used to transport their animals is properly set up and maintained, they will have peace of mind that their animals will get to the saleyards safely.” 

The considered design and flow of loading ramps, pens and walkways, as well as the auction ring itself, play an important role in reducing stress. Calm, experienced stock handlers and auctioneers can also make a huge difference on sale day. 

“Vleissentraal has upgraded its biosecurity facilities and there is always a vet on site at auctions. The vets also advise farmers about what they can do on the farm before they get to the saleyard to avoid problems,” says De Klerk. Animals will always be stressed by change but the auction can be managed to keep the pressure at low levels, to the benefit of the seller, the buyer and the livestock. 

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