The 2017 Great Spirit Bison Show and Sale might be one of the last to run a sales ring.
The Manitoba Bison Association is eyeing video auctions to improve safety and public engagement during sales. The system would replace the sales ring with video taken of animals within their pens and then uploaded online. Online bidding would also be available.
Nolan Miller, president of the Manitoba Bison Association, said animals would still be transported to Brandon for the sale, as in previous years.
“There’s zero stress on the animals,” Miller said. “Basically, running them through the sales ring for people to bid on them is, to me, kind of pointless. If the animals are right there in the pens for the buyers to look at, I don’t see the need to run them through the sales ring. You run the risk of injuring the animal or, also, one of the handlers.”
Bison may return to the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair under a video auction system, the association has said. With about 100,000 visitors expected this year, the association hopes participation in the fair would increase public awareness and education of the industry.
The Great Spirit Bison Show and Sale usually coincides with the final days of the fair.
“The winter fair, they want us there, but it just doesn’t work out for penning space to have bison physically there. This was kind of, maybe a way to please everyone,” Miller said, adding that bison require more space than horses or cattle traditionally stalled during fair week.
With video auctioning, stock could be housed at Heartland Livestock Services, current home of the Great Spirit Bison Show and Sale, several kilometres away.
Ron Kristjansson, general manager of the provincial exhibition, said bison were once integrated in the fair, but moved to a separate event once the sale grew too large. The exhibition would be open to returning bison to the schedule, he said.
“We do get a lot of people from all walks of life through the fair and lots of farmers are there and lots of people who might have a connection to the bison industry, but I think, even for the general public or people who haven’t first-hand experienced a bison sale, it might be pretty interesting to watch part of it while they were at the fair,” he said.
This year’s Great Spirit Bison Show and Sale featured 35 show animals and 150 head in the commercial sale.
The association previously ran a video auction during the 2016 Regina Agribition. It was a positive experience, so Miller says he does not anticipate push-back from members should the video auction be pursued here.
“I think the price would’ve been the same either way if we would’ve run them through the ring or by video,” he said of the association’s experiment last year. “The prices held up real good and everyone we talked to thought it went well. I know before the sale there were some people who were concerned that it might not go as well, because there’s always people who are leery of change.”
Miller acknowledged that a video auction next year may cost more than it did in Regina.
Last year, the association used a video auction provider who was already on site for the Agribition cattle show, which also integrated video. It would likely be a greater cost should a similar company be called in specifically for the bison sale, Miller said.
The success of the sale will be reliant on the quality of the video, he added.
The idea was presented and largely accepted by membership during the Manitoba Bison Association annual general meeting March 31.
The Manitoba Bison Association will reach out to both the provincial exhibition and video auction provider before making any further decisions.