Positive livestock auction market throughput figures released for England and Wales

19th April 2018

Average values rise as throughput figures show healthy picture and good demand during challenging year

Throughput figures through the auction mart system, released this month by the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA), demonstrate a strong demand for the red-meat sector, with turnover across all species rising above the £1.7 billion mark during 2017.

The figures demonstrate a strong trade throughout the year, with average values rising in almost all categories of both cattle and sheep, and an increase in buyers either returning or attracted to the competitive live-sales ring.

Sheep trade up

The sheep trade saw increases of 73,000 store and breeding stock and 75,000 slaughter stock sold through auction marts above 2016 figures.

Overall figures of sheep sold through livestock markets in England and Wales has broken the 10 million barrier in 2017, an increase of 148,000 store, breeding and slaughter stock from 2016.

Average values were also up on virtually all categories of sheep in England over the previous 12 months, while averages in Wales increased for breeding and prime stock and cull ewe prices remained fairly static.

These figures are for the period between 1st Jan to 31st December 2017, representing a calendar year average, and therefore do not consider, for example, the later old season lamb/hogget sales.

View from the auction

Commenting on the sheep trade at Skipton Auction Mart over 2017, Ted Ogden of CCM Auctioneers, explains, “The sheep market has generally been very comfortable in 2017.

“We have had plenty of customers ring-side, and a good strong trade in premium sheep. This has in part been driven by demand from farm shops, high quality retailers and family butchers. There has also been increased trade into premium markets across north western Europe.”

Cattle follow similar trend

Cattle sold through livestock markets in England and Wales stood at 1,119,000, up 7,000 on the previous year. A further 243,000 calves also went through the live sales ring.

Store cattle averages in England saw a rise of £59.08 to £802.69, while Wales saw an increase of £36.09 to an average £834.57. Beef breeding cattle averaged at £1069.17 in England, a rise of £47.31, while in Wales a huge leap of £161.50 saw averages at £1055.87.

Huge demand has seen dairy values rocket in both England and Wales, with increases of £223.64 and £94.64 respectively taking averages in England to £1172.51, and £968.48 in Wales.

Slaughter cattle averaged at £1117.17 in England, an increase of £51.99, while a small drop in Wales saw a more than respectable £1,127.04 average. Increases of over £100 in both England and Wales saw cull cow averages in England at £758.79 and £722.19 in Wales.

Getting more for cattle in the competitive ring

Tighter cattle numbers saw Thame Farmers Mart report record figures during a sale back in August 2017. “We had the most marvellous day,” explains Simon Draper, senior auctioneer at Thame. “The sale of 270 cattle, to average £1050, had never been done before. This was at least in part due to the short numbers.”

Chris Voyce, director and auctioneer for Voyce Pullin at Cirencester Livestock Market comments, “Because of the high-price of stock, we are seeing lots coming back to sell through the market rather than on field. You may get offered one figure on the field that sounds good, but the likelihood is you could get more in the competitive ring.”

This in turn brings more buyers to the ring. Richard Haigh, auctioneer at Selby Livestock Auction Mart adds, “When supply is slightly tighter, this puts an added edge on competitiveness. The live market reacts very quickly to changes in supply, working to the benefit of the vendor.”

Encouraging figures

Chris Dodds, executive secretary of the LAA, is encouraged by the figures as markets are drawing more customers back to the live-sales ring.

He says, “Livestock auction markets are pivotal to the supply chain, providing an open, transparent and competitive marketing forum for the red-meat sector. It is pleasing that both the sheep and cattle sectors have performed so well in 2017, and continue to do so in the early part of 2018”

Richard Haigh takes the sale at Selby Livestock Auction Mart
Richard Haigh takes the sale at Selby Livestock Auction Mart
Chris Dodds, LAA executive secretary
Chris Dodds, LAA executive secretary