A North Dakota-based, ag auction company has launched a monthly Internet-only hay auction as a supplement to its existing live auction services.

Steffes Auctioneers, Fargo, has been conducting regularly scheduled, quality-tested hay auctions at its Litchfield, MN, facility since fall 2008. The goal of the Internet-only auctions, launched earlier this month, is to help hay sellers reduce transportation costs.

“With the live auctions, some of our sellers have to travel five, six hours or more to get their hay to the auction,” says Randy Kath, auctioneer and hay-and-livestock specialist with Steffes. “After the sale, they might have to travel another two hours in the opposite direction from home to deliver the hay. That chews up a lot of fuel and a lot of time. By doing everything online, we can eliminate at least some of that.”

After a seller signs up for the online auction, Kath travels to where the hay is stored with a hay probe and camera. The samples he collects are sent to Dairyland Laboratories in St. Cloud, MN, for RFV and RFQ analyses. Lab results, photos and detailed descriptions of the hay are posted on the Steffes Auctioneers Web site before each sale.

“I spend a lot of time crawling around trying to get pictures of the hay from different angles and taking notes about the hay,” he says. “We want buyers to be confident about the quality of hay they’re bidding on, and that means providing as many details as possible.”

At Steffes’ February online auction, 52 lots of hay, from North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, were offered. Bidders from 11 states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Tennessee, participated.

“When we came up with the idea, my goal was to get 50 lots for that first sale, so we’re very encouraged,” says Kath. “I was concerned that if we only put 20 loads out there, people would think it was a flash in the pan and lose interest pretty quickly. Our ultimate goal is to offer 100-plus lots of hay at each of the Internet-only auctions.”

Steffes’ current plan is to conduct these sales monthly year-round. They’re to be a supplement to live hay auctions in Litchfield, held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, September-May, and once a month (schedule pending) June-August. Internet-only sales will start on a Monday and run through Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week.

 “We ran the first auction a little longer than that,” says Kath. “It was something new, and we wanted to give people a chance to discover it.”

While such hay auctions represent a new venture for Steffes Auctioneers, Kath notes that the company has been conducting similar farm equipment auctions since fall 2009.

“They’ve been incredibly successful,” he says. “I’ve always been a fan of live auctions because of the interaction that takes place between the people involved. But we’re definitely going to be seeing more and more Internet-only auctions in agriculture. They’re a very efficient way of conducting business.”

To contact Kath, call 701-429-8894 or email randy@steffesauctioneers.com.