The Livestock Auctioneers’ Association (LAA) has officially launched its new Market Prices platform during an online introductory event, guiding users through the benefits and enhanced subscription plans now available to the industry.

The platform aims to be the new destination for live cattle, sheep and pig prices from across the livestock markets of England and Wales.

The launch event guided users through the new features and benefits of the system and subscription plans, while also providing technical guidance and support covering some of the queries raised by early subscribers.

“Our demonstration video runs through the key features of each of the subscription plans, helping to clarify exactly what is available to users,” explains LAA development officer Zanna Dennis.

“This includes continued free access to daily prices for mart customers, updated daily at 12 noon. Users simply need to select the market they use and include their unique buyer/vendor code on the Daily Prices sign-up form, and free access will be enabled,” she adds.

The demonstration also confirmed that every level of subscription plan, including the free of charge Weekly plan, will continue to enable users to view prices for all individual markets, equivalent to the previous system, as well as by country or region.

“As an additional enhancement, all subscription plans include the four-way comparison tool, with users of the premium Real-Time Prices plan benefiting from the greatest level of insights with the ability to compare individual markets against others, or countries and regions,” says Ms Dennis.

To give users the opportunity to evaluate the enhanced data sets and monitoring tools available through the new premium Real-Time Prices subscription plan, the LAA is offering a free, three-month trial for subscribers up until 31 March 2024.

Ms Dennis stresses that the platform will continue to develop, with new services and features introduced, very much based on user feedback.

“We have already received a positive response, with suggestions from users on new features they would like to see in the future, and we will continue to work with our developers as the platform builds,” she says.

Crucially, buyers and vendors using LAA member livestock markets will continue to benefit from free access to the essential daily price updates.

The launch event included a panel discussion with sheep farmer and podcast host Rebecca Wilson and beef and sheep farmer Mark Townley, alongside auctioneer Will Alexander of Bentham Auction Mart.

The panel discussed how market prices can benefit farming businesses, as well as exploring the benefits of the live auction ring beyond the point of sale and its crucial role as a community hub.

Ms Wilson commented during the discussion: “Having only gone back to the sheep on the farm a few years ago, it has been a real learning experience for me to understand what buyers want, and to talk with the auctioneer.

“That comparison between other lambs coming in, and being able to know what a good, finished lamb looks like, for me has been really important, and I wouldn’t have got that by selling through a different method.”

Mr Townley pointed out: “Seven days is a massive timeframe where so much can change. It is also not a local area now, so what happens here [Bentham], can be affected by something that has happened in Devon or Cornwall, or Aberdeenshire,” he said.

The panel also discussed the wider benefits of the auction mart beyond the point of sale as an opportunity to bounce ideas off fellow farmers and highlighted the benefits the mart provides as a social hub.

“The challenges we are facing as an industry aren’t often understood by the public, or other friends outside of farming, so being able to talk to people who know [for example] cash flow hasn’t been very good, or that we have had a lot of rain recently which is really impacting things, is absolutely vital when it comes to that mental health and community side of agriculture,” Ms Wilson said.