The Livestock Auctioneers Association said the figures showed the importance of the auction mart system
Live auctions have seen increased throughput numbers and positive turnover figures despite the challenges from Covid-19 in 2020.
Figures from the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA) showed more than 11 million animals were sold through the live sales ring in England and Wales in 2020, with turnover topping £1.8 billion.
Total cattle sales pushed well over the one million-barrier, an increase of 30,000 over 2019, with overall sheep sales up 370,000 year on year.
Despite Defra figures revealing a 3.7 per cent drop in overall mutton and lamb production and a 15 per cent drop in slaughter numbers for ewes and rams, slaughter stock numbers for sheep sold through the live markets have increased by almost 5 cent to over 6.8m.
Calf numbers have risen by 10,000 to 220,000.
But the figures were offset against the considerable increase in staffing and market operational costs, managing and policing bio-secure sales environments which have kept the markets open.
LAA executive secretary Chris Dodds said: “The increased throughputs have been phenomenal and this is in a large part due to the support, understanding and patience of our vendors and buyers, and in return the live sales ring is delivering strong market prices.”
Marts have seen more small and medium-sized retailers and butchers at the sales rings during the pandemic.
And new technology would also continue to add to the value of the marts, with many markets utilising real-time online bidding platforms during live sales.
Timed online sales have also provided a workable solution when traditional live sales could not take place, proving particularly effective in machinery sales.
“Providing this opportunity for live, distance-bidding is a strong add-on to the core business of our members, providing a competitive and transparent environment to achieve a true and fair price for livestock,” Mr Dodds added.