23 November 2001

Live sales to return at UKs largest mart

By Jeremy Hunt North-west 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 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.

Beef society sale dates are already being provisionally booked for 2002 and will hopefully start in March under strict biosecurity regulations.

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 the H&H Group, which includes property, motor vehicle sales, insurance and livestock quota, had continued to trade profitably during the last four months. "Despite the vacuum created by foot-and-mouth disease, the groups farmstock division is performing to expectations."

But he added that some of the companys operations were finding it "extremely difficult" as the agricultural sector emerged from F&M. "It is going to be a long road to recovery and there is going to be a vacuum until we are in a position to resume live sales of stock. Many farmers still have to reach decisions about the enterprises they intend to go forward with in the future."

The meeting heard that the F&M crisis had necessitated the farmstock division to adapt to "new skills" in trading livestock.

"During the first week of November the company traded 10,634 head of livestock at a value of £2.2m despite all the rings at Borderway Mart being closed.

"During October, the farmstock divisions southern operation sold £4.7m worth of dairy cattle for restocking in Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway."

There is still a strong demand for cattle for restocking, with a growing trend for commercial dairy farmers to upgrade to pedigree status. But there are signs that supplies of top quality commercial dairy cattle are tightening, he said. &#42