Positive livestock auction market throughput figures released for England and Wales

20th March 2020

Throughput figures show healthy picture and good demand during challenging year

Throughput figures from the livestock auction mart system, released this month by the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association (LAA), demonstrate a strong support and demand for the red-meat sector.

The figures demonstrate a strong trade throughout the year, with numbers sold rising in almost all categories of cattle, sheep and pigs, and an increase in buyers returning to the competitive live-sales ring. Turnover across all species reached close to £1.6 billion, across England and Wales, in 2019.

Sheep trade up

The sheep trade saw increases of 46,670 store and breeding stock, up to 2,837,888, and 183,446 prime sheep above 2018 figures (4,970,234 total).  There was an increase of 11,132 cull ewes, up to 1,861,774. Just shy of 10 million sheep were sold through livestock markets in England and Wales in 2019.

View from the auction

“We saw an impressive annual throughput of 225,000 head of sheep in 2019, marginally up on the previous two years,” says Auctioneer and Managing Director at Hobbs Parker Auctioneers LLP, Elwyn Davies, who is based at Ashford Livestock Market.

“This included more than 140,000 head in the second half of the year, from more than 400 vendors, from nine different counties. These sheep were sold to 300 individual purchasers from 19 different counties.”

Cattle follow similar trend

Cattle sold through livestock markets in England and Wales stood at 1,022,765, over 5,000 up on 2018 numbers. A further 210,443 calves also went through the live sales ring, an increase of 32,053 on 2018.

Store and breeding cattle sold in Wales increased by 2,348, with dairy cattle in both England and Wales seeing numbers rising by 4,875. Prime cattle saw a significant increase, up 15,317 on the year.

Getting more for cattle in the competitive ring

Charlie Coleman of Frome Livestock Auctioneers says, “In terms of throughput, we have seen trade back to the numbers of two or three years ago, selling to the same or even showing an improvement.”

Mr Coleman believes the key is the fact that the market is always there. “Abattoirs don’t want cattle every week. Markets, however, are showing a fair trade every week, because they are meeting a demand, and that is creating a selling opportunity,” he says.

Robert Venner of Greenslade Taylor Hunt at Sedgemoor Auction Centre comments, “I can only say that the liveweight system creates competition in the sale process as vendors show their stock in front of numerous buyers, instead of selling to one at home.

“When selling live, the vendor receives a price for the whole animal’s bodyweight, across a publicly open weighbridge. All livestock are sold on the same criteria, with no variance, unlike the differing carcass specifications between slaughterhouses.”

Pig trade lifts

The LAA also reports on an uplift in the pig trade through the live sales ring. Store and breeding pigs increasing by almost 1,500, up to 33,662. Slaughter pigs lifted in numbers by 3,940 up to 79,717.

Encouraging figures

Executive Secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association Chris Dodds says that this is clear evidence that, across the country, the transparency and competitiveness of the live sales ring is driving trade on behalf of the farmer.

“It is good to see the confidence in the livestock markets with the increased throughput across all categories of stock sold,” He says. “I am also delighted to see so many vendors returning to the market to generate best returns on their livestock, and I am equally pleased to see buyers identifying live sales as the chosen purchasing route.”

Cattle sold through livestock markets in England and Wales stood at 1,022,765, over 5,000 up on 2018 numbers.
Cattle sold through livestock markets in England and Wales stood at 1,022,765, over 5,000 up on 2018 numbers.
Prime cattle saw a significant increase, up 15,317 on the year.
Prime cattle saw a significant increase, up 15,317 on the year.
Just shy of 10 million sheep were sold through livestock markets in England and Wales in 2019.
Just shy of 10 million sheep were sold through livestock markets in England and Wales in 2019.