Paul Gentry reviews the year so far.
Well it has certainly been a funny old year! Only I could move jobs and put my house in Lincolnshire on the market in the week of lockdown!
However, I am thoroughly delighted to have moved to Darlington Farmers Auction Mart Ltd, a company I have had past association with when standing in for my late great pal Stephen Aitken over 8 years ago.
We enter in to a very exciting chapter of the history books as we are now just a few weeks away from moving to our Brand New Auction right at the side of the A1(M) junction 58. This was Stephen’s dream and I am sure that those who knew him best will be raising a socially distanced glass to him at our first sale.
I couldn’t pen this column without mentioning my grateful thanks to the team here at DFAM for making me extremely welcome together with the wonderful people of Durham, Northumberland and North Yorkshire; they really have gone that extra mile.
The challenge of completing a new auction during a Worldwide Pandemic will certainly be worthy of its own chapter in my book one day and I have to mention the efforts of our Chairman Mark Dent together with my fellow directors who have risen to every challenge with drive, passion and great humour which at times has been very much needed.
We are delighted to have seen rapid growth across all sections in both prime and store sale rings with producers seeing fantastic returns; in some cases, centre records have been broken. This is mirrored across the country with many auction marts seeing a welcome rise in throughput and trade. It seems that producers are returning in droves back to the live auction system.
I recall the dire pricing structure of the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 when producers were robbed of their stock, the current situation could have so easily mirrored those very dark days. Lockdown was announced on 23rd March and the following week saw prices go through the roof as the consumer panic bought food. Chris Dodds and the LAA fought extremely hard and ensured that auctions remained open, all be it only for prime stock initially.
Trade stuttered in very late March with some anti-auction meat companies putting their price in to free fall. The sheep price, due to the auction, very quickly rallied, the beef fared less well with many companies pulling their price week after week with some quoting just 300ppk on R grade clean beast. More producers have returned to the auction ring as the smaller wholesalers enjoyed more market share as their independent customers saw their businesses increase by impressive percentages.
Some incredible milestones have been reached here in Darlington with cull cows lately to 230p/kg and £2000; stock bulls to £2600 and young prime bulls regularly beyond £2000; clean cattle weekly now selling above and beyond 260-270p/kg and sheep are returning record averages for the time of year, the better bred and better fed lambs are weekly reaching £110-£130. Long may it continue.
On a personal level I thank my old friends and supporters from the South and Eastern Counties who regularly support us with prime and store stock complimenting the wonderful animals provided by our loyal local customers. As we go forward we guarantee a superb experience in our new auction and the motto is simple, we are here for the good of the British Livestock Farmer, near and far, big or small. Numbers equal buyers and buyer’s equal numbers.
Paul Gentry is the director and head of primestock at Darlington Farmers Market.
Call 07940 330 907.