Number of sheep sold through auction marts grows for fourth year running

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Livestock auction marts continued to go from strength to strength in 2014.

The latest sales figures for England and Wales, from the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA), show support among farmers remains steady as 200,000 more sheep were sold through markets than in 2013.

2,683,000 store and breeding sheep sold through marts in 2014, up from 2,530,000

7,287,000 prime slaughter sheep sold through marts, compared to 7,244,000 in 2013

Number of store and breeding cattle down slightly, but number of calves up 4.5%

Chris Dodds, Executive Secretary, LAA, said: “Despite the many challenges auction marts face – often from people who have never set foot inside one – and the competition from online systems and direct selling, farmers are voting with their feet, numbers sold have increased and the livestock system is as crucial as ever to British farming.

“The extra 200,000 sheep that were sold through auction marts last year will have experienced modern handling facilities staffed by well-trained drovers. They will have been sold by auctioneers who have the best interests of their farmers foremost in their minds. And they will have been purchased by people who could stand round the ring able to choose exactly what they want to buy.

“Looking to the future, I would encourage anyone thinking about entering into a direct supply agreement with one of the major retailers or abattoirs to think again. With major multiple retailers struggling to maintain sales, direct contracts might not be the best way for farmers to secure a long-term sustainable business.”

While cattle numbers were down slightly, the beef industry will be pleased to hear that the number of calves sold through marts was up 4.5% in 2014.

Chris Dodds continued: “The number of calves sold through our markets rose last year and while it isn’t a huge jump, it does suggest a return of confidence in the beef sector and more are being sold through the auction mart system, achieving a fair competitive price.