Hugh Brown discusses the value of data sets.
This week sees the long anticipated introduction of the Livestock Information Service (LIS) to replace the Animal Reporting and Movement Service for the reporting of sheep, goat and deer movements, with cattle and pigs to follow.
Livestock markets are already well adapted to the bulk electronic reporting of animal movements, but the move to amalgamate the separate systems is welcome and should deliver more benefits at lower cost for the industry than the current outdated and fragmented service, as well as helping to control any future disease outbreaks.
The open design of the system should also allow the combination of LIS data with other data sets to enable items such as farm assurance, TB area, breeding data and health status to be added to the pool to increase
information available and its accuracy for customers at the point of sale.
The value of this agricultural data, especially when combined with the market prices achieved alongside it, will only rise as farmers and other businesses in the food chain try to improve the way they do business.
All of this takes place in the context of a strong mart sector, albeit with significant cost challenges felt by much of agriculture, business and customers, along with continued nervousness about the situation in Ukraine.
Strong livestock prices are welcome in this context and, while lamb demand has been volatile in the first few months of the year with an all or nothing approach from many of the processors as they managed their post-Christmas inventories, this now seems to have stabilised.
Market intermediaries (dealers) have been vital in this period to maintain a more stable price than ‘natural’
demand and supply would allow and their service is not always fully appreciated.
They provide buyers at all times, even when the abattoirs are full and release stock when the demand picks up again and are a key part of the public marketplace.
The overwintering trade has again been profitable, especially in the ewe sector, with prices and volumes exceptional with more than 1,600 last week alone, with similar this week, to 230 and an all in average near 130.
Cattle volumes have been growing steadily as we head towards Easter, with stores in particular maintaining a very strong trade and buyers from the North coming to pick up large consignments.
The fat ring has consistently shown that weight pays, with many large steers, cows and bulls grossing more than 2,000 and heifers consistently breaking the 3/kg mark.
Spring heralds the start of the pedigree sales, as well with the multi-breed show last weekend, with many bulls at more than 5,000gns.
The special sales continue with the Limousin Society and the Spitalfields Native and Traditional sales next month.
Pigs have also seen strong growth in sales this year. As the normal integrated supply chains have broken down with harrowing stories of stock having to be slaughtered on-farm, farmers have looked to the marts to sell stock.
From a relatively low bar, we have seen sales grow almost threefold so far this year, with extra sales being put on to meet demand. This has demonstrated the value of marts as an outlet in all market conditions.
Retail food and drink
In addition to the livestock market, we increasingly provide a destination for retail food and drink for our livestock customers and other visitors, with our brewery (featured on last week’s Countryfile), craft distillery and forthcoming smokehouse adding to the established farmers market and events venue.
These two sides of the business complement each other and help consumers understand where food comes from.
It is heartening to see this side of the business pick up post-Covid-19 restrictions and only a shame that avian flu still prevents poultry sales from adding a buzz to Saturday sales.
Hopefully, the sun will soon see this season’s outbreak off.
Hugh Brown is the chief executive of Melton Mowbray Market. Call 07557 737 633, or email
[email protected] meltonmowbraymarket.co.uk