HIGH demand for red meat helped boost auction throughputs and prices in 2017, with premium markets giving a boost to sheep sales, data from the Livestock Auctioneers Association has shown.
English and Welsh auction marts saw increases of 73,000 store and breeding stock in 2017, with slaughter stock up 75,000 on 2016 figures.
There was strong demand for the red meat sector as a whole, with turnover across all species rising above the £1.7 billion mark during 2017.
Average values across the sheep ring in England were up on the previous 12 months, with Welsh averages increasing for breeding and prime stock and cull ewe prices remaining fairly static.
Skipton auctioneer Ted Ogden said the sheep market had been ‘generally very comfortable in 2017’.
He said: “We have had plenty of customers ringside, and a good strong trade in premium sheep.
“This has in part been driven by demand from farm shops, family butchers and high quality retailers.”
There was also increased trade into premium markets in north-western Europe.
Cattle saw a similar trend,with an increase of 7,000 in the number of cattle sold, at 1.1 million, and 243,000 calves through the rings.
Store cattle averages in England were up £59.08 to £802.69, with those in Wales up £36.09 to an average of £834.57. Beef breeding cattle averaged £1,069.17 in England, a rise of £47.31, while a ‘huge leap’ of £161.50 in Wales saw averages at £1,055.87.
‘Huge demand’ saw dairy values rocket £223.64 in England and £94.64 in Wales.
Slaughter cattle averaged at £1,117.17 in England, an increase of £51.99, while there was a small drop in Wales to a £1,127.04 average.
There were increases of more than £100 for cull cow averages.
Chris Voyce, director and auctioneer at Cirencester said they were seeing people returning to market rather than selling out of the 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,” he added.
LAA executive secretary Chris Dodds was ‘encouraged’ by customers being drawn back to markets.
“Livestock auction markets are pivotal to the supply chain, providing an open, transparent and competitive marketing forum for the red meat sector,” he said.