Primestock sales reached record levels in 2006, according to McCartneys, the UK’s largest prime cattle auctioneer.

Prime cattle sales reached 41,150 last year, up by more than 7000 head in 2005, according to the auctioneer’s annual review.

Sales of sheep though the company’s five sale centres in the west Midlands and Wales rose by more than 37,000.

Auctioneer Glyn Owens said increased production costs mean sheep producers could face difficulties in 2007.

However 2006 was a “turning point” for beef and store cattle sellers and their success should continue this year, he added.

“Last year gave the first hint of an improvement in farming’s fortunes,” he said. “But there’s certainly no living to be made by banking the Single Farm Payment.

“Livestock businesses that thrive will be those that continue to produce stock to the highest standard and trade it professionally.”