5 July 2002

One-way marts are becoming a growing trend

By James Garner

NORTHAMPTON Market is the latest auction to introduce slaughter-only sales on a fortnightly basis in a bid to boost numbers of cattle through the ring.

This move follows the lead of York, Colchester and Newark marts, which all introduced slaughter-only markets soon after DEFRA changed the rules in mid-May to allow slaughter stock through an auction even if they were tied up with the 20-day rule.

But it is not a move that market manager Brian Pile wanted to make. He prefers a traditional market when sellers can take their stock home if they dont like the price.

"The selling of stock has been an absolute minefield. The 20-day restrictions, whether for vendors or buyers, are strangling the industry and livestock auctioneers."

He says the fat cattle trade has taken a real hammering with Northampton selling a quarter of stock it used to sell on a Thursday. "It has really had an impact on the man who buys 10 store cattle on a Saturday and then wants to sell some fatstock the following week, but cant because his unit is locked up."

Northampton will hold its first sale for slaughter animals on a one-way ticket on July 11.

"It will allow units on a 20-day standstill to use the market. Its not really what markets are about, but it should allow us to sell more stock and generate more income," says Mr Pile.

Paul Gentry, of Newark Market, has found fat cattle numbers down by about 20% of pre foot-and-mouth levels. "We sell young bulls and prime beef cattle every week, while every other week we run a slaughter-only market for those units tied-up with the 20-day rule.

"It has been going for about six weeks now and is gathering momentum. Farmers have to learn that they cant afford to lose livestock markets and use them more."

But Mr Gentry doesnt reckon that auctions where stock can only move direct to slaughter are a problem. "We have sold 2000 fat cattle since we resumed and I should think only four have gone back home. It just isnt an issue."

The 20-day rule remains the biggest constraint on business, according to Mr Pile, who wants an individual movement ban on animals bought at market to replace the holding standstill. He warns that locking up whole farms could be encouraging illegal movements between properties.

"We dont know what is happening on farm. The rules are driving more farms into illegal and unrecorded movement of stock." &#42

Northampton Markets Brian Pile has introduced a fortnightly slaughter-only market to boost cattle numbers through the ring.