Stephen Dennis on market prices.
With drought, the conflict in Ukraine, political upheaval and rising costs, how on earth are farmers expected to plan ahead and have the confidence to replenish breeding and store stock.
Perhaps farmers have the benefit of having seen it all before. They have been through BSE, milk quotas and foot-and-mouth disease.
They have once again shown their resilience and set about buying and selling stock in the time-honoured fashion.
The main breeding sheep sales have passed with quality being key in all sections.
At Bentham, the August shearling and ewe sale got away far better than expected, with the top end shearlings a good 30-40 per head dearer on the year.
Top-end gimmer lambs were equally well rewarded and trade for Swaledale breeding sheep saw quality in high demand.
Lesser, more commercial shearlings/ewes, together with the smaller running ewe lambs, have been variable and harder to place - a definite consequence of the drought in southern and eastern counties.
Winter feed, or the lack of it, is reflected in the current sales of store stock.
In the cattle section at Bentham, we have seen well fleshed, short-term cattle regularly achieve 1,350-1,650 and even in the 1,700-1,800 bracket for the very biggest.
Longer term feeding cattle are being discounted due to high feed costs, although wintering stirks have remained good to sell.
Store lamb numbers are plentiful with a record entry of 9,000 entered for next Tuesday’s sale.
Once again, short keep and quality are easier to sell than the longer term wintering lambs.
Our dairy section at Bentham has seen a higher throughput and with farmgate milk prices reaching record levels, trade for newly-calved cattle has rocketed.
Last year’s early October sale saw top prices for heifers of 2,200 to average 1,794 while at last week’s sale, heifers sold to a high of 3,650 to average 2,321.
The number of stock traded through the marts in the north of England at this time of year is immense.
I should acknowledge the huge amount of work put in by all auctioneers and market staff, in particular the unsung heroes - the yard staff, who work long and unsociable hours once the buzz of the auction is over to ensure readiness for the next day’s sale.
However, my admiration really goes out to livestock farmers countrywide who, despite turbulent and uncertain times, continue producing food for our nation who may yet come to appreciate it for its true value.
Stephen Dennis is market manager and auctioneer at Bentham Auction Mart. Call 01524 261 444, or email [email protected]