For Harrison and Hetherington Europe’s leading Livestock Auction Company, 2011 has been a year of highs. Its accomplishments read almost like a Guinness MART of Records. In his first full year with this Carlisle based company Scott Donaldson, Sales Director, looks back at the livestock trading for the last six months and looks forward to 2012.
“It’s been a year for records tumbling, as the sales have mounted up. Livestock has certainly kept our gavels busy!”
With seven auction marts across the North West and South West Scotland, from Lazonby to Lockerbie and Kirby Stephen to Carlisle, Harrison and Hetherington can expect to have a finger on the pulse of farming itself, so the business they do is also a fair indicator of aspects of the rural economy.
In total, the company has conducted annually over 600 sales, and auctioned over 800,000 head of livestock. They have sold many different breeds of cattle and sheep, pedigree and commercial and even a few dozen alpacas. Farm machinery vintage and modern, poultry, plants, horses, ponies and donkeys have also been under the hammer. Thousands have attended not just the auctions but the many events that have been held during the last six months, including The National Limousin Show in July and Harrison & Hetherington’s very own agricultural event, BorderwayAgri Expo in October.
June began with the Holstein UK sale where prices peaked at 23,000 guineas. Later in the month saw the on-farm sale of 560 head of pedigree Holstein Friesian dairy cattle at Dolphenby Farm, Penrith. The first of the world records was broken at Carlisle in July when an in-calf heifer belonging to Gordon Wilson, from the Bankdale Limousin herd dispersal, sold for 65,000 guineas.
September’s annual Holstein and British Friesian Show and sale of bulls saw a record average of £3100. Later in the month two further records were broken at the annual show and sale of suckled calves. The top price achieved was £3500 from Thirlwall Castle. Steers saw their highest ever average of £1004 and heifers were also a highest ever average of £909.
Further highlights include August’s, Beltex sale where Beltex shearling ram ‘Ardstewart Paparazzi’ sold for 10,000 guineas. The spring born suckled calves at Middleton in Teesdale was another record breaking sale with the highest prices ever seen. The sale average was up £134.50, resulting in an overall average of £750.
Throughout the last six months, three hugely successful on-farm pedigree cattle sales were conducted by Harrison & Hetherington. The Manor House herd of 96 Limousin cattle saw prices reaching 9000 guineas. The Grange Herd of 62 Limousin Cattle saw stock selling to 18,000 guineas and the final on farm sale of the Wesley Herd of 148 head of British Charolais cattle sold to 10,000 guineas.
Carlisle’s Borderway is the largest centre for cast cows in the UK. They hold weekly sales throughout the year and Scott was delighted to see for the first time since BSE, over 300 head of prime cows being sold in one day.
Finishing off the year was the 25th Anniversary Black and White Sale. Buyers from 8 different countries were competing for some of the best dairy genetics on offer in Europe with a top call of 15,000 Guineas.
Trade for lambs went off with a flying start, the beginning of the summer lamb sales in July saw new season lambs selling at £20 per head more than in 2010. This was a phenomenal trade with prices equating to over £2 per Kilo.
At the Alston Moor sale of Mule gimmer lambs at Lazonby, a total of 17,611 lambs were sold grossing a fantastic £1.7million. This is always one of the biggest one day sales of breeding sheep in the country and this year was certainly a sale to recognise.
The North Country Cheviot sale at Lockerbie saw a shearling ram topping the sale at £6000 and later in the month at the Hill Cheviot Ram sale two rams from The Becks sold for £12,000 each.
Moving south of the border again, at the annual three day Kirkby Stephen sale of Swaledale rams, a total of £1.2 million changed hands with the top price of £34,000 being achieved for a shearling from ‘Bull & Cave’
The end of November is often a time when the prime lamb trade slackens however lambs once again break the £2 per Kilo barrier.
For Harrison & Hetherington, the year is ending on a tremendous high, with three very successful in-lamb Texel sales culminating in the Christmas Cracker Sale when a Texel gimmer from Glenside Farm made both a breed and centre record when it sold for 32,000 guineas.
We leave 2011 having experienced livestock prices that a few years ago none of us would have believed possible, and it seems to have come as a result of an agricultural policy that seems intent on protecting the environment at the expense of food production. Whether this changes we shall have to wait and see.
As we look to 2012, though, we need to look at the underlying features of the economy. As the price of fuel & energy looks set to remain extremely high and, with it, fertilizer, and most likely protein and concentrates, high livestock values are only masking the fact that margins remain tight. This makes it even more important that every livestock farmer takes advantage of the current shortage of livestock and gets every pound they can for what they produce by using the competition created by the live auction system.
Future prime lamb prices may be dictated by what happens on the Continent, but there is no doubt that beef will be in short supply for some time. This bodes well for breeders and finishers, and a welcome ease in the price of feed grain may help improve margins in the short term at least.
So, as the new year approaches Harrison & Hetherington look forward to another year of buoyant livestock prices for their customers at Carlisle, Lockerbie, Newcastleton, Lazonby, Kirkby Stephen, Middleton in Teesdale, and Broughton.
As always, to achieve the best return for our customers whether it be with cows, calves, store or dairy cattle, lambs, breeding sheep or pedigree stock here at Harrison & Hetherington we will continue to offer the most efficient and professional service available in the livestock auction industry.