Ted Ogden on adapting marts during Covid-19.
It is important to find positives from situations and, although lockdowns have been very hard on many parts of everyday life, it also appears to have been of benefit to different sectors in some ways.
The forced change in eating habits, mainly more home cooking, has seen the UK family retail butcher trade be one of the growth sectors as consumers look to cook meals for families consigned to home.
Those family butchers tend to source their supply themselves direct from the marts or through small and medium wholesalers which generally also source their supply from the live sale rings.
There is no doubt this has shown the strength of using the live marts and has been a fundamental factor in seeing primestock prices rise to levels more akin to those needed for the primary producer to satisfy the costs of running a herd of suckler cows and housing them through winter in the hills, or farming a flock of sheep and the associated costs of feed, medicines and grassland keep.
With changes to agricultural support on the horizons, these values are more like what is needed to cover costs and keep farmers producing for the marketplace, and ultimately putting food on the nation’s table.
Trade through late February has seen prime lamb averages at Skipton range from 281p-292p/kg (£121-£125 sale averages) for entries of 2,900-3,200 head.
Smart end lambs have been 350p/kg to more than 400p/kg, with gross values for butchers lambs at £140-£170. Heavies have also picked up pace at £135-£160 depending on quality.
Mule and hill-bred lambs have also been finding regular values of £120/£130, while fleshy lightweight horned wethers have been at 240p-270p/kg. Cull sheep have also been getting in on the act at Skipton, with sale averages of £85-£95 for between 400 and 600 head.
Young feeding bulls and store cattle are now seeing the age profile at our Skipton sales moving more towards spring 2020-born cattle, and sale averages recently of £1,044/head for the regular entry of 750 head at our fortnightly sales, a clear sign of the demand from feeders to keep sheds full as processors fight for supply.
It has been excellent to see live prime cattle sale rings also performing very well and being more than competitive.
Lockdowns have been far from easy for anyone, with markets operating ‘drop and go’ leaving vendors to place their faith in auctioneers to achieve full market returns, while having the added problem of making sure vendors’ stock is sorted for sale as per instructions.
I place on record my thanks to everyone who has done so with their market and kept the live sale rings at the forefront of setting price. If we can take some positives from the situation, it is that technological advances have been made at the mart in Skipton, many people now use the online camera streaming service direct from the sale rings and keep abreast of the trade and trends live.
Online live bidding has proved its usefulness and has been invaluable for certain sales which require large gatherings of people in close proximity and so could not be held.
Sheepdog sales have been very successful online, pedigree stock has sold online at both timed auctions.
Machinery has also been sold online, with collective and dispersal sales all making the transition to the net in these times.
Throughout all this, the auction mart again proved its worth as the medium of providing open market value and bringing real and genuine competition to the overall benefit of livestock values. But the value of the auction mart as the social hub for farmers on market days is immeasurable.
We cannot wait to wait for the day when the Government gives the green light for us to throw open the doors and welcome everyone back to make use of the facilities around the sale rings and for everyone to gather and have a chin wag and share a laugh.