2 August 2002

Sale success pins hopes on 20-day rule concessions

By James Garner

AUCTIONEERS are pinning their hopes on more concessions to the 20-day rule so that this autumns sales can operate successfully.

One exemption that looks likely to get the all clear is that breeding rams, sold through markets, will not trigger the 20-day ban on a buyers holding.

This could have a big impact on some of the large commercial tup sales, such as the National Sheep Associations ram sale at Builth Wells in September, when up to 9000 rams go under the hammer.

But this autumns breeding ewe and suckled calf sales will still be hampered, unless further concessions are made before September.

Mr Kingwill says the hardest hit will be the sheep industry, where a restricted breeding cycle means many farmers will be buying breeding stock at the same time that they have either breeding animals or fatstock to sell.

"I am sure auctioneers will offer private treaty sales and maybe some video sales, but nothing works as well as getting stock and people congregating together."

Stuart Bell, who will be running breeding sheep sales this autumn for Harrison & Hetherington, says a normal sales pattern will be "very, very difficult".

"It is hard to find a 20-day gap between the lowland sheep sales that start in August right through to the hill sheep sales in October and the suckled calves in November. I think every farmer that sells stock in that period will get caught up in it."

He says that H&H plans to strengthen its farm-to-farm trading, so that this can act as an efficient back-up for those farms that become locked up in a 20-day standstill.

But he hopes that government can still be persuaded to adopt the Scottish system, whereby a unit can keep the stock they buy or sell separate in an isolation unit for 20 days to avoid the 20-day whole-farm ban.

Maurice Hall, of Hawes Auction Mart, in North Yorks, says the autumn sale dates will have to go ahead as planned. "We will try and make it work, but it will be a logistical nightmare."

In a normal selling season, Hawes market would see 70,000 ewe lambs and 20,000-30,000 gimmer ewes pass through the ring.

This year with less livestock in the north-west, and some farms still without animals after foot-and-mouth, numbers were expected to be about 60-70% of this level. The 20-day rule will only limit this further, he adds.

&#8226 For more information on sheep breeding sales, see p28. &#42

Peter Kingwill is still hoping for further concessions to the 20-day rule to help autumn sales.