We are now over 6 weeks into lockdown and from the outset every sector of the farming industry, and the UK marketplace changed beyond recognition. However, from day one our aim here at H&H was to provide a service to the British public and to our customers at every level, by keeping our livestock marts open and ensuring that the food chain was not immobilised.
After all, as the supermarket shelves emptied faster than they could be replenished, there was still the essential need to supply meat establishments and meat processors with the goods.
In the first month we managed to maintain store sales and enabled the system to work efficiently and safely within social distancing rules. We followed very strict trading government guidelines, with a drop off and go system and zones marked around the ring side, minimising human contact.
We were hit during this time by other sales being prohibited, but thankfully at week five of the lockdown, the Government agreed to allow the commercial breeding sales to re start. As we enter one of the busiest months of the year for breeding cattle sales and the large number ewes and lamb sales, this could not have come at a better time for our customers.
Having to adapt to new techniques and methods of selling we very pleased to launch our new online timed auctions these are the first of their kind in the UK. The inaugural sale using this new online technology was the Spring sale of pedigree Holstein, British Friesian and Fleckvieh bulls. Of course for many of the vendors and purchasers, this system was something they are not accustomed to, however I am delighted that our customers leaped into the spirit of this new approach and provided some exceptionally dare I say talented videos and pictures – some even shocked themselves with how easy the process was. The sale was a success with 80% of stock sold and averages on a par with last year.
Following the success of this first sale and with no alternative we have embraced this new method of selling and are now going into future sales with renewed confidence.
With the month of May is now upon us, we are heading into it a jam-packed month of sales of all types. Our main pedigree beef sales commencing this week with the Limousins are now being run using the online live auction trading system. This will be followed by our second pedigree sale comprising Charolais, Aberdeen Angus, Beef Shorthorns and our third week of trading will see the British Blues, Herefords, Salers and Lincoln Reds. Following on from this there will be a series of various pedigree female sheep sales and the month will conclude with our first online machinery sale.
In the farming industry there is an annual calendar, this is the same year in year out to reflect the seasonal nature of farming. This calendar is our trading cycle and is absolutely imperative for cash flow. Therefore I believe that we must maintain momentum and ensure that trading and the flow of livestock continues, whether it be virtual or through the sales ring. In doing so, farmers will receive their much-needed financial rewards and the food chain will continue to receive supplies at this critical time.
I conclude this piece following a full day’s trading selling, prime cattle and cast cows. With the usual ringside of buyer’s prices were similar to last week, the top priced bullock sold at £1621, the top bull £1665, and the top cast cows £1706. In the sheep ring prime sheep were up to £152 per head, so overall despite the restrictions, trading is continuing well, and good prices are being achieved.
Harrison & Hetherington Senior Auction Grant Anderson