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INTERNET SELLING SET TO TAKE OFF!

Trading cattle online is not a new concept, but until recently the Internet was never able to provide the real-time action of a live auction. Now Live Global Bid (LGB), a division of Live Global Communications of Moose Jaw, Sask., claims their new software virtually eliminates the frustrating delays in online video and audio feeds during a sale. While Canadian and U.S. auction markets are impressed enough to start installing LGB's software and holding online sales, it may take some time before hardened cattle buyers are convinced clicking a mouse is as easy as catching an auctioneer's eye.



About 3 years ago, Barry White, CEO of LGB, hired on a team of local high-tech gurus to speed up the transactions. Today their software offers a delay off less then one-third of a second on the audio portion, while the video image of cattle moves at 7 frames per second. A new phototype program speeds up the video to the point where it will be like watching it on TV. When wired up, this new technology should give online bidders an equal play with those around the ring or on satellite.



"It took us about 18 months to get this software system even close to being developed and, I admit, we were extremely fortunate to have this kind of technologically astute people right here in the Moose Jaw area," says White.



About 4 years ago, White and his spouse, Barbara, were running White Sales and Auction in Moose Jaw, Specializing in farm equipment. They realized a change was needed so they learned about computers and launched a static Internet auction system. It worked like eBay, where items were posted on the site for 10 days and the highest bidder at the end of that time got the merchandise.



"It worked out pretty well for about 8 months," White recalls. " We sold items into Texas, Alaska, B.C., Manitoba, all over the place, and we were getting 90,000 hits per day and 3,700 user sessions. But it was short-lived because we had to reserve the items, and auction people on the whole hate reserves."



They concluded that they needed an interactive online auction, and that was the beginning of LGB.



HOW IT WORKS!



LGB will operate the sale for the market, or sell them the equipment and license their software for $750 per month, which includes technical assistance and upgrades. The only other cost for the market is the charge for an Internet connection.



Those who want to buy cattle must download and install the browser plug-ins, register with LGB and create a password to gain a paddle number. Buyers may also need to register and verify their credit with the auction company holding the sale ahead of time. At a minimum buyers need a Pentium II processor, Windows 98 and Internet Explorer 4.5 ( not version 6) or Netscape Navigator 4.7 ( not version 6), a sound card, a monitor with 800x600 screen resolution, and a 56 Kbps modem ( fast dial-up or better).



Once logged in, buyers bid on lots in increments, usually $250, $500, $1,000 or $5,000, by clicking on a dedicated hot key. If you are the highest bidder on a lot, your paddle number will be displayed in the " last bidder" window, and you'll be notified by e-mail of your purchase.



Prior to a sale a catalogue is available on site, and complete descriptions go with the video pictures during the sale. "No doubt about it, buyers still have to trust the descriptions the auction market puts up there of the cattle," says White. "That's very important with this and, for that matter, any cattle auction."



FITS WITH PRESORT SALES!



Roy Rutledge, manager of the Assiniboia Livestock Auction in southern Saskatchewan, has been selling cattle over the Internet for nearly 2 years. The first year he used a SaskTel system but it was plagued with problems. He's since moved to LGB and is happy with the way the program works. What's needed now are more buyers to try it out. "I do see this Internet cattle auction eventually taking over from satellite sales," he says. "Where it works really well is for presort sales where there's liner loads of cattle coming in, and there's a sale catalogue buyers can get off the web site with all the cattle descriptions."



Most of Assiniboia's online sales run smoothly except for bidders on a dial-up modem link when their hook-up speed drops below 56 Kbps. They can maintain the audio feed right down to 28 Kbps but the video image gets choppy.




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