By James Garner
AUCTION marts in the south appear to have suffered most from atrocious weather but, country-wide, stock quality is taking the biggest battering.
Markets at Ashford in Kent and Hailsham in East Sussex report cattle and sheep numbers well down, with flooding and fallen trees preventing hauliers reaching markets.
Last Tuesdays sale at Ashford was 50% down on numbers as flooding in the River Stour flood plain caused sellers to abandon transporting stock.
Similar reports came from Hailsham, where last weeks storms played havoc.
“Last week we had 180 store cattle and 400 sheep entered, and only 17 cattle and 50 sheep made it to market,” says South East Marts Roger Waters.
And Hailsham suffered again this week, with 180 cattle making it from 280 catalogued entries.
Stock left outside have taken a battering, such as those on the South Downs, says Mr Waters.
“They have that autumn weathered look. The condition of cattle has deteriorated in the last two to three weeks.”
However, his biggest concern is for farmers with stock in the Lewes area. Some have reported losing cattle, apparently swept out to sea.
Most auctioneers are noticing an increase in “cold cattle”, due to the saturated conditions.
David Lock of Premier Livestock Auctions at Frome and Yeovil, says that some store cattle coming forward have neither “time nor finish”, with prices dropping to 50p-60p/kg for poor cattle off grass.
Quality cattle finished from yards with good breeding are making better prices, he adds, with 19 top-quality heifers fetching 88p/kg this week.
Further north, it seems that most hauliers and farmers have taken stock to market, but it may have taken them longer to do so.
In Hexham, flooding has caused few problems, with 4000 lambs passing through the gates on Tuesday (07 November).
But quality is not as good as last year and finishers are facing the added difficulty of keeping stock dry and clean, says Hexham and Northern Marts Chris Armstrong.
“It is not so much finish that is causing problems, but wet fleeces. A number of finishers are putting lambs on straw before selling to keep them clean.”
This, he says is worth it as prices for wet or dirty lambs are 2-2.50 down.