Helping the world’s oldest industry adapt to a digital world

Mankind’s oldest industry

You might not know this – I didn’t – but sheep production is mankind’s oldest organised industry. Sheep were domesticated some 10,000 years ago in Central Asia and have been traded for meat and wool ever since. And did you know wool was the first commodity of sufficient value to warrant international trade? Me neither…

All photos © Emily Fleur

Livestock markets and trading face-to-face

The thing is, from the earliest records, sheep have been bought and sold face to face, normally in livestock markets through the process of auction. And that tradition has continued until the current day, although it is now severely disrupted by Coronavirus.

Frankly, any process that has survived as long as sheep or cattle markets and auctions must have something going for it. And of course it does – farmers get to inspect the animals at first hand and the auction system does an extremely efficient job of balancing supply and demand. They are also a huge part of the social calendar in rural circles.

Could they take sheep and livestock trading online?

But even before the coronavirus pandemic challenged such gatherings, the limitations of the system were being questioned. We were approached by a young farmer making real waves in sheep trading – Ross Sizmur along with his wife Emma – to see if we could help them take the process online.

And that’s what we’ve done. It’s relatively low tech at this stage, the logic being that most farmers will still want to deal in person or over the phone, but the brand and site we have created – rosssizmurlivestock.com – means that Ross can showcase sheep and other livestock for sale and cut out the need to visit markets for all the trading.

Facilitating livestock trading in the wake Covid-19

With the coronavirus situation, the impact is much more profound. Ross’s foresight has put him in a really strong position to pivot sheep and livestock trading online and help keep the industry functioning.

The site was announced a few days ago and this is some early feedback from Emma:

“Yes, we went live a couple of days ago. Also got the Facebook page up and running. Already got over 500 likes. Ross has also already had lots of calls and enquiries! So all good”

Teaching an old industry new tricks in order to stay viable

So fingers crossed but early signs are encouraging. Holly and I tend to live in a world of the future – of tech, innovation, start ups and so on – but it feels really good to be able to help such a traditional sector get up and running online and, all being well, give them a new lease of life in these challenging times and beyond. 


Visit rosssizmurlivestock.com to have a look

By Tony Harbron...

Tony Harbron of Growth Guides marketing, the Exeter based team helping founders and ambitious companies to scale up

Tony Harbron is a highly experienced strategist, innovator and marketing professional with time spent in both client and agency environments as well as in senior management (to listed company CEO level) and as an entrepreneur responsible for creating, building and selling a number of successful brands and businesses.

Tony was previously involved with numerous world-famous brands and organisations including Red Bull, the BBC, Ofcom, Lynx, Pot Noodle, Ministry of Sound, the FT, the Independent, lastminute.com, Virgin etc.

He is an innovation specialist and has run numerous workshops and seminars on creativity, new product development and idea generation.

His most recent venture saw him guide Lightfoot on their growth journey and he remains an investor in the company. Tony is an Oxford University graduate, an MBA, and a member of the Marketing and Market Research Societies.

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