No doubt about it: Traipsing around an auction yard on a cold, windy winter day to examine a load of hay or straw before making a bid is no fun.

Dealing with the elements is not a problem for hay buyers attending the twice-monthly tested hay auctions at Steffes Auctioneers, Inc., Litchfield, MN. The company designed its new facility so potential buyers can sit on bleachers indoors and view each load of hay as it's driven past a row of three large overhead glass doors.

“It's a convenience for our buyers,” points out facility manager Roger Paul. “They don't have to stand out in the elements while the sale is going on. Instead, they can place their bids while sitting in a comfortable, climate-controlled environment.”

Paul notes that Steffes Auctioneers, headquartered in Fargo, ND, has been holding this kind of auction for farm machinery for many years. The company started the Litchfield hay auctions last fall.

“The weather we had over the winter gave us a good opportunity to sell our customers on the advantages of this kind of approach,” he says. “In the nine auctions we had between the first part of November and the middle of March, we saw just about every kind of awful weather you could think of — snowstorms, ice storms, sleet and cold. In fact, we only had two auction dates this winter with fairly good weather.”

To take the convenience/comfort concept one step further, Steffes Auctioneers also offers buyers the option of participating in the hay auctions via the Internet. Cameras mounted on the outside of the facility provide live-stream video of each load rolling by the windows.

“Customers can go online before the auction starts and see the test information (provided on site by Dairyland Labs, St. Cloud, MN) for all the loads,” explains Paul.

“Once the auction starts, they can see the hay and also see how the truck driver presents the hay, then place a real-time bid at the same time customers here at the site are bidding. It works out especially well for people who have a heavy schedule at home on auction day or who might not be able to travel here for an auction because of bad weather.”

Up to this point, Paul reports, between 5% and 10% of the bids placed at the hay auctions have been from online bidders.

“We think that percentage will build as our customers become more familiar and comfortable with the concept,” he says. “That's what we've seen with our farm equipment auctions on the Internet. It was slow when we were first getting started. But now we're getting more and more online registrants with every sale. At some of our bad-weather sales, over 50% of the bids are now coming online.”

Tested hay auctions at Steffes'Litchfield facility are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays the months of September through May. The company also plans to hold once-a-month hay auctions during the summer. Details will be announced soon.

For more details on the auctions, information on bidding online and results from sales this winter, go to www.steffesauctioneers.com or call 320-693-9371.