The Livestock Auctioneers' Association Limited (LAA)

Trade Talk - Will Alexander, Bentham Auction Mart

22nd March 2021

A year on from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and the importance of auction marts continues to ring true. Continued optimism in the British beef and lamb sectors is having a positive impact at all stages of the supply chain.

Demand for calves, stirks and stores as well as all classes of sheep has held firm over past weeks and months, despite the uncertainty of COVID-19 and Brexit.

The well-coined term of “sell live and thrive” has never been truer, as calf marketing comes under increased pressure, due to some milk processors starting to lean heavily on specific breeding and the direct sales of calves to finishing units, in doing so bypassing the auction. However, markets the length and breadth of the country have customers for stock of all breeds, ages and qualities.

Calf sales at Bentham are regularly in excess of 100 per week, with trade at the moment substantially up on the year. Wednesday’s sale of rearing calves saw Blue Bulls top at £500, averaging £359 (+£53 on 2020), whilst their female counterparts averaged £340 (+£112 on 2020). The story is similar with the native calves, Angus Bulls and Heifers averaging £44 & £24 more on the year respectively.

The dairy bull is receiving more scrutiny than any other breed, with schemes to abolish calf euthanisation – and rightly so – coming into force. Vendors are nervous of the extra costs of rearing to over 8 weeks being profitable. However, Holstein Friesian bulls over 8 weeks are often averaging £180-£190/head, showing that the demand for well reared calves is as strong as ever.

Demand is no different in the prime sheep sector, with hogg prices flying high. Deadweight firms are dragging their heels, whilst the live ring continues to offer the best returns for all.