Evaluation: How livestock auctions slot in right now’s meat markets

There’s a sure nostalgia related to buying and selling livestock at a reside mart – it’s, in any case, a system that has operated properly for greater than 200 years.

However livestock farming is a enterprise with tight margins, so it’s not nostalgia that retains farmers returning to the public sale mart week after week.

See additionally: Learn our livestock advertising recommendation in a single place

Livestock Auctioneers’ Affiliation (LAA) secretary Chris Dodds describes it because the fairest technique of buying and selling and valuing livestock – an “impartial, clear, open and aggressive discussion board”.

“It’s the solely advertising system that works for the seller. Farmers use marts as a result of they really feel they’re getting true and truthful costs for his or her inventory,” says Mr Dodds.

“Again in 2001, when there was no possibility for reside gross sales due to foot-and-mouth, and once more in 2007 when there was a small hiccup in commerce, abattoirs paid as little as they may for inventory, as a result of they’re in enterprise to generate profits. They wish to purchase as cheaply as doable.”

It’s reside gross sales which have pushed costs in the course of the pandemic, he suggests.

“If farmers haven’t realised the worth of public sale marts previously 18 months they by no means will. Costs may not essentially be the most effective each single week, however on common they’ve been on the high of the desk by means of the previous 18 months, and proceed to be there.

“Though the farmer doesn’t know precisely what he’ll make for his animals earlier than they’re introduced on the market, he does have the choice of taking them house if the value isn’t ok.

“Extra importantly, there are not any deductions made post-sale for the animal being ‘out of spec’, comparable to chubby, the improper breed, overage, or having made too many strikes in its life.”

The public sale ring is the place the value is about, Mr Dodds factors out. “We solely see deadweight costs catching up the next week.”

‘Out of pocket’

There are 122 livestock marts in Nice Britain – 72 in England and 25 in each Wales and Scotland.

The liveweight advertising system operates in methods that may be of nice profit to the vendor and the customer, however they aren’t proof against issues and points can come up, not least when an working firm fails and farmers are unnoticed of pocket.

However there have been high-profile abattoir failures too, Mr Dodds factors out.

“As with all enterprise, there are issues every now and then, however historical past tells us that farmers have been extra protected than not by the public sale system.”

Though no new markets have opened in recent times, some which have closed have reopened – Builth Wells mart reopened below a brand new operator in 2021 and enterprise is booming, says Mr Dodds.

In West Wales, this has additionally been the case at Llandeilo, the place auctioneer Huw Evans has taken over the positioning following the demise of BJP Marts, and Nock Deighton is within the means of getting the previous BJP Marts web site at Carmarthen operational once more.

Social facet

Apart from the precise enterprise of shopping for and promoting, livestock marts additionally present an vital social facet to farmers’ lives that the deadweight gross sales route can’t.

A brand new report commissioned by The Prince’s Countryside Fund and printed in 2021 highlighted how public sale marts sort out social isolation and enhance the well being and wellbeing of their customers.

Mr Dodds says this report, and others, exhibits a necessity for livestock markets over and above merely buying and selling.

“Farming is usually a lonely job, a mart provides farmers the prospect to get collectively,” he says.

He means that by means of 2021, deadweight sellers, a lot of whom had been promoting to abattoirs for years, returned with some or all of their cattle and sheep.

Deadweight enchantment

The proof for that’s anecdotal as a result of figures for 2021 have but to be printed. However what 2020 information does present is that, whereas livestock marts took the most important share of sheep gross sales at 55%, virtually 90% of prime cattle and grownup bulls gross sales had been by means of the deadweight system.

Sure, there was a contraction within the variety of UK abattoirs – previously three years alone numbers have lowered by 20 to 159 – however people who stay have expanded.

These companies are extremely centered on mainstream retailers and are prescriptive within the consistency of product.

What can’t be disputed is that abattoirs wouldn’t be capable of function if marts had been their solely technique of sourcing livestock, says Nick Allen, chief govt of the British Meat Processors’ Affiliation.

“Abattoirs begin working at 5 – 6 within the morning, the provision chain couldn’t perform if it needed to reply on gross sales of cattle and sheep later within the day.”

Beef producers favour the deadweight system for a number of causes, Mr Allen suggests, not least for the understanding of what they are going to be paid for his or her inventory.

“Farmers who promote deadweight want to promote straight to the processor, predominantly as a result of they know what they will be paid earlier than the animal even leaves the farm.”

‘A chance’

Promoting an animal by means of a mart is a bet, Mr Allen believes.

“Sellers don’t know who’s going to be on the mart, which patrons are going to be there.”

There’s additionally the dedication of time wanted to attend a mart, though the drop-and-go providers many auctioneers operated amid Covid restrictions confirmed that the reside mart system may perform properly with out farmers being bodily current.

However deadweight gross sales are nonetheless much less time-consuming, says Mr Allen.

“Lots of farmers prefer to be at marts to keep watch over what is going on and that eats into their day.

“If they’re promoting deadweight they will organize to have their inventory picked up from the farm, fairly than understanding how they will get them to the market when they could be in need of time.”


One other benefit of promoting on the hook is the suggestions on carcass conformation and fats cowl on the kill-out sheets.

“Farmers like that suggestions and the dialog with the abattoir, it retains them in contact with what’s taking place within the market and additional down the provision chain,” says Mr Allen.

Regardless of making the case for deadweight promoting, Mr Allen reckons there’s a want for the public sale ring too.

“It’s not unreasonable to argue that public sale marts set the value. That’s why I feel there’s a place for each deadweight and reside gross sales.

“Marts give the business a really feel for what’s happening, however solely a sign of developments fairly than what is going on on a selected week.”

Case research 1: Promoting liveweight is truthful and social

Nicola Pughe © Debbie James

Promoting lambs at her native public sale mart at Talgarth scores over the deadweight possibility on a number of fronts for sheep farmer Nicola Pughe.

As her household’s farm, Faculty Farm, Trefecca, is only a mile from the mart, it isn’t inconvenient or pricey to take the lambs house if she is sad with the costs provided, and he or she enjoys the social facet of assembly different farmers.

“The economics of transporting the lambs to Talgarth are very beneficial,” says Mrs Pughe.

Though she has the choice of withdrawing animals from sale if the bid worth doesn’t meet expectation, she is assured she receives the most effective worth within the public sale ring.

“If it has been a great week within the reside marts, we regularly see abattoirs elevating their costs for the following week,” says Mrs Pughe.

However she concedes there’s one facet to deadweight gross sales that she likes, when she has used that route.

“Having the data on the kill-out sheet is basically attention-grabbing and helps us perceive which animals are hitting the precise grades and fats courses.”

What promoting direct to slaughter can’t change, nonetheless, is the large half that marts play within the social cloth of rural life, she reckons.

“They play an enormous half within the lives of many farmers. For some it’s the solely place that they get the chance to meet up with neighbours and buddies. It might be an enormous loss if that disappeared.”

Talgarth Livestock Market is operated by Sunderlands, which took on the operating of Builth Wells mart in 2020.

Case research 2:  Promoting deadweight ensures high quality suggestions

Richard Spencer © Debbie James

Richard Spencer sells his cattle to Woodheads to produce the Morrisons Shorthorn Beef premium scheme.

There as plenty of elements that, when mixed, make deadweight his most well-liked gross sales route.

“They at all times deal with me very pretty. I typically pick the inventory myself, however very often a fields officer will come out and have a look,” he says.

“I weigh the cattle myself earlier than they go, for peace of thoughts.’’

Mr Spencer receives the kill-out sheets on the identical day the cattle are slaughtered and fee is in his account inside six days.

All steers end at 20-24 months at a deadweight common of 340kg. Fats cowl grades of three and 4L are focused, and R and O+ for conformation.

Mr Spencer’s farm at Newbold-on-Stour is a minimum of an hour’s drive from his nearest cattle mart at Rugby, Warwickshire.

“By promoting straight, the cattle are collected from the farm, I haven’t acquired to move them to a reside market the place I wouldn’t know the value I’d be paid till they’re offered.

“I do know what the bottom worth is and if I hit the specification I receives a commission a premium too.”

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