Winter weather plays havoc with auction marts

Livestock markets have seen a firm start to the New Year primestock trade but heavy snow and icy weather are causing major disruption to sales.

At Thame market in Oxfordshire, auctioneer Robert Lea was expecting a strong entry for Wednesday’s (6 January) primestock sale but 9in of snow overnight forced him to cancel.

Nevertheless around 210 sheep delivered early and kept overnight met a firm trade with telephone buyers anxious to secure stock and an average price of 192.5p/kg.

For the latest news on trade from livestock auctions across the UK visit our Taking Stock blog

“We’re struggling to get sheep, buyers and hauliers together,” said Mr Lea. “The heavy snow overnight here caused havoc and it’s a great pity as we had seen a good strong start to the year, with more cattle booked for our Friday store sale than last year. We’ll just have to wait and see if that goes ahead.

“We had a good entry of just under 1000 sheep at Winslow market on Monday, with lambs averaging 185p/kg and cull ewes £10-15 up on the week.” Hoggets finished on stubble turnips were now starting to come forward in numbers and were meeting a keen trade from buyers, he added.

At Hexham mart in Northumberland, auctioneers were waiting anxiously to see if Friday’s store cattle sale could proceed as planned. “There’s more snow forecast here and at the moment there’s a question mark over whether we can go ahead,” auctioneer Trevor Simpson told FW on Wednesday. “Most places round here will have had at least a foot of snow and the farm roads aren’t getting cleared.”

Tuesday’s primestock trade had seen prime lambs reach 204p/kg with 1200 head in the pens. “Cull ewes met a very good trade too with the best Continental types £100-140/head,” said Mr Simpson.

In the Midlands, some gatherings had been able to press on. “It was -9C in the market on Monday morning,” said Alastair Sneddon at Bakewell market in Derbyshire. “There was even frost on the cows’ noses.

“Wintry conditions arrived on Monday but those farmers that were able to attend were rewarded and the buyers appreciated their efforts at getting the stock to them. In the end we had a fairly good turnout of primestock, while those with stores chose to remain at home.”

An entry of 140 fat cattle peaked at 208p/kg – £1459 gross – for a British Blue heifer, while 1200 hoggets reached 229p/kg and averaged 193p/kg.

North of the border, at Lanark market in Scotland, Lawrie & Symington auctioneer Andrew Barrie said the winter weather had caused numbers to dip, but trade was holding up well. “A lot of farmers are occupied trying to thaw pipes and get feed and water to stock, while trailers are frozen up and lorries won’t start. But prime lambs were a big price last week and cows were slightly dearer on the week.”

The next sale was pegged for Monday, and Mr Barrie was confident it would escape disruption “But a lot could happen between now and then.”

For the latest news on trade from livestock auctions across the UK visit our Taking Stock blog