9 November 2001

UA to cease live prime cattle events

By James Garner

ONE of the countrys leading auction houses, United Auctions, has announced that it will no longer be holding live prime cattle sales.

The auctioneer has decided that it can serve its clients needs better by buying stock direct off farms for various outlets, says its chief executive, David Danson.

"We can offer a better service to farmers and processors by doing this. The live ring will remain very important for selling store and pedigree cattle. But the focus of our live cattle business from now on will be procurement.

"We know the processors well and what they require and where the stock is to meet this."

He says the firm will be employing more field staff to locate and supply cattle to processors.

Peter Kingwill, chairman of the Livestock Auctioneers Association in England and Wales, was surprised at UAs decision.

"Auction marts demonstrate the true value of an animal whether through a store or a prime stock ring.

"In the past nine months at Chippenham Market we have offered a service supplying abattoirs with cattle on behalf of farmers, the difficulty has been identifying a true market price.

"UA might not have as big a prime stock operation and this could be a move to concentrate on the store and pedigree trade."

Robert Forster, chief executive of the National Beef Association, says there is a big difference between selling direct to an abattoir, and using a commission earning body to negotiate a price.

"If one auction mart company does this it is not a disaster, but if every prime stock sale is made this way, then it will be difficult to know where to pitch the price.

"The deadweight price has been terrible recently at 150p/kg, but until there are auction markets no one knows what the real price is. In the limited number of marts in Scotland recently, the market price was 6% above last years."

Nevertheless, Mr Danson expects some big changes in the way auction markets operate. "Auctions are just simply not going to resume as they were before. There will be plenty of changes ahead. The trouble is this is an exceptionally conservative industry and it does not take change well," he adds.

He also predicts more on-line auctions and more direct trading between farms. &#42