By Jeremy Hunt, north-west England correspondent

LIVESTOCK could be back in the sale rings of the UKs largest auction mart by the end of February, according to Harrison and Hetheringtons chief executive Trevor Hebdon.

At the H&H Groups annual meeting in Carlisle this week, Mr Hebdon said: “I would like to predict that we will be selling livestock at Borderway Mart towards the end of February next year.

“It will not be easy in terms of biosecurity, animal welfare and movements, but Im confident that we will be able to deal with all of that and return live selling to Cumbria.”

The H&H Group has also announced a provisional mid-May date for the prestigious Borderway black-and-white sale, which would normally be held in early December.

Recent weeks have seen the company procuring large numbers of dairy cattle from Wales and the south west of England to fulfil orders for restocking Cumbrian farms.

“We finalised deals on seven herds last week, and had five auctioneers and field staff working flat out in the south-west,” said Mr Hebdon.

The H&H Groups accounts for the year ending June 2001 showed an increased profit before tax of 265,000, compared with 208,000 the previous year.

Turnover was virtually unchanged at 5.7m.

Mr Hebdon said: “Despite foot-and-mouth disease, the groups farmstock division is performing to expectations.”