Craven Cattle Marts experienced a record year in 2011 in terms of increases in both sales volumes and values - both good barometers of trade in the regional agricultural sector.
Jeremy Eaton, CCM Auctions
Livestock throughput in all sectors at Skipton Auction Mart sales throughout the year showed an increase on 2010, with some 270,000 prime, store and breeding sheep, and 20,000 prime, store and breeding cattle and calves sold last year.
Total numbers of store and breeding cattle sold in 2011 represented a10.4% increase on the previous year. Cast cows were notably strong, with a 7.9% rise in numbers sold.
Sheep, too, performed well, with a 13.9% increase in sales numbers for prime lambs, hoggs and cast ewes. Store sheep sales were also up by 13.9% in numbers, with the number of breeding sheep sold up by 5.6%.
Ted Ogden, CCM’s farmstock sales manager and auctioneer, noted: "Although we may have seen improved trading levels for livestock in 2011, recent figures published by EBLEX illustrate that this was the first time in many years that the 'retail price spread' - the percentage of the final retail price that the farmer receives - was above 50%.
“In previous years, the farmer had only received about 46-48% of the total retail price for beef and lamb paid by consumers. However, any perceived additional benefit that this may give to farmer producers and finishers is more than outweighed by many input costs - for example, the spiralling cost of feeds and fuel."
Although dairy cattle numbers were slightly down on the year, this was largely due to the fact that sales numbers in recent years were bolstered by dispersal sales of milk herds, which have decreased of late, illustrating that the national dairy herd has now reached a stable level.
Calf trade throughout the year was buoyant, with high-end Continental-sired bull calves regularly selling at £350 to £400 and heifer calves at between £250 and £300 - now the norm rather than the exception. "With the decline in the national beef herd, this continued confidence is indicative of a shortage of cattle for beef finishers," explained CCM general manager Jeremy Eaton.
Solid sheep trade across 2011 saw prime lambs in big demand by abattoirs supplying the multiple supermarkets, local meat wholesalers and retail butchers - both traditional and ethnic.
There was also strong demand from abattoirs supplying export markets to Europe, in particular the premium market in Belgium, volume markets in France and Germany, and lighter carcasses to southern European countries. "This demand was created by a worldwide shortage and advantageous exchange rates," noted Mr Eaton.
Notable was the presence of regular buyers at the ringside sourcing lambs on behalf of frequent abattoir, wholesale and retail butcher customers week in week out.
Buyers from throughout the UK beat a path to Skipton to buy store lambs, with large numbers finding homes in North Wales and the Welsh borders once drought conditions allowed, together with the traditional feeding areas of the east and midlands.
There was again good support throughout the year for the many monthly, seasonal and special cattle and sheep shows, which continue to provide a high profile stage for the region's showmen and women to demonstrate their expertise.
Pedigree breed society shows and sales also proved popular. Ted Ogden said: "We continue to cement and develop our reputation as specialist pedigree livestock auctioneers. The mart is at the heart of one of the major livestock producing areas in the country, and at the confluence of three major roads that provide rapid access to the M1, M6 or A1.
“Our excellent facilities, combined with the willingness of breeders to travel to areas of strong demand, have helped to consolidate this status with our customers."
Location is all-important too for Skipton's renowned seasonal sales of working sheep dogs, which attract vendors and buyers from many parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The trials field was improved in 2011.
Improvements have also been made to bi-monthly Saturday collective sales. Tractors, farm vehicles and ATVs are now in standalone sections, with additional seasonal sections for muck and grass handling equipment.
Mr Eaton said: "It's been a positive and successful year and we look forward to more of the same in 2012, which will be our 21st year at the present site.”
* The above article appears in CCM News, Skipton Auction Mart’s annual review of the year newsletter. Copies are available from the mart office or email firstname.lastname@example.org giving your name and address to receive a copy by post.
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