14 June 2002

Movement in auction marts is up

By James Garner

AUCTION markets are fighting back, according to the latest figures from the Meat and Livestock Commissions economics department.

Its most recent analysis suggests that stock numbers sold through markets are building as they become re-established, although it notes there are some regional differences.

Scottish markets have faired the best, with 60% of pre-foot-and-mouth sites reporting prices to the MLC. But marts in Scotland have been allowed to open since August last year, which is longer than elsewhere in the UK. In particular, sheep farmers north of the border have flocked back to the live ring again.

Over three-quarters of lambs are being sold through auctions, compared with pre-F&M levels. But with fewer markets open, proportionally more lambs are being sold through those sites that have reopened, says the MLC.

Prime cattle numbers are trading at about 44% of auction throughputs in 2000, with prices showing a healthy premium over those in England, with trade levelling at about 96p/kg, roughly 10p/kg better.

Prices and numbers have been below par in English cattle markets, although stock numbers are growing, particularly for lambs. The MLC reckons that nearly half pre-F&M markets are open and reporting prices to the organisation again.

Cattle throughputs have remained steady at about 28% of 2000 levels, with prices roughly the same. Last weeks numbers were down because of the short week and consequently trade picked up by 2p/kg to 89p/kg for the week ending Jun 5.

Lamb numbers have been building, although spring lambs are trading at about 38% of two years ago, mostly attributed to lambs finishing later than normal.

More Hoggets were sold through the live ring, with numbers trading at 70% of 2000 levels.

In Wales, auction markets have been well organised and nearly 60% are operating and reporting prices, but they are having to cope with much lower numbers.

Slaughter cattle have been running at a similar level to those in England, but lamb numbers have been far lower at just a third of 2000 levels.

Peter Kingwill, chairman of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, says that poorer turnouts in Wales is unsurprising given the seasonal nature of many markets there.

"Most lambs in Wales will not have been born until March and April, so the bulk of lambs wont be coming fat until mid-June onwards at the earliest."

He adds that the biggest issue for stock throughput is still the 20-day rule. "During spring there are a lot of movements onto farms, such as store cattle and calves, ewes with lambs, and bulling heifers, all these stop a farm from selling stock for three weeks." &#42