Agriculture producers are grappling with the pressures of working in a new digital age, something the pandemic has only accelerated the pace of.
Twin View Livestock of Parkbeg SK, has met the challenge head-on by increasing their online presence and marketing their purebred Gelbvieh seed stock on social media. Aaron Birch, Twin View's co-owner, says the online tools have helped them stay in contact with their clients when the regular social avenues, such as auctions, are disrupted.
"It was interesting last year when there were a lot of people who had never done any bidding online had to learn how to do so in a hurry. So there was a big shift there but it actually went quite well. It's amazing to see the people that we never expected to be comfortable bidding online ended up making it happen."
Birch says their operation has all but quit using print advertising, favouring the expanded reach that online advertising offers.
"In the last year, we've been able to market cattle into the States and sent genetics overseas as well. That would be a lot more tricky to do in the old days when people were really only interested in cattle when they saw them in person. It used to be that you'd just look for the closest sale to you and go to that one. Now because of the online format, you can look a lot further away from you and get genetics other than the ones just available on your doorstep."
The added exposure that online marketing offers do come with some challenges, however. Birch says having more options available to customers makes the competition even tougher, forcing Twin View to make sure that their customer service is top-notch.
"It's important to keep in contact with our customers both ahead of time and after a sale. Just to discuss what they are looking for and then, later on, to keep following up and make sure the cattle they purchased from us are performing the way they want them to."
Birch is of the opinion that even when the pandemic is over and travelling and social events return, online tools will continue to play an ever-larger role.
"On the farm side of things, everyone is buying equipment online now. It'll be the same thing with cattle and that won't be going away. I think there will be more people going to sales because there is that social aspect to auctions. Everyone is looking forward to the comradery and meeting up with people with the same interests as you. But I don't think that the online aspect will be going away in a hurry."
According to Birch, the past year has highlighted the resilience of people in the agriculture sector in learning to navigate the detrimental effects of the pandemic. He says the industry is coming out of the past year stronger than other sectors thanks to the strength of the people in it.