SCOTT DONALDSON, sales director of Carlisle-based Harrison and Hetherington, looks back at the events of 2012 from an agricultural perspective, and tries his hand at predicting what might be in 2013.
THERE may be some uncertainty around, but we have had another confident year, and the busy auction rings have more than kept up with the pace they set in 2011 resulting trade in keeping with last year.
Harrison & Hetherington are a large company with interests in many agricultural areas, and seven marts across north west England and south west Scotland. Our performance is a good indicator of the strengths present in the rural economy. The weather is depressing and has affected so many farmers this year, and we fully expect that these affects will be seen well into 2013.
During the year as a whole, more than 600 sales have been held, and over 700,000 head of livestock changed hands. Animals of all kinds have passed under the gavel – everything from sheep to sheepdogs, and cows to camelids – to say nothing of farm machinery and equipment.
The flagships of the year have undoubtedly been the specialist Agri-Expos and Show Sales, with their attendant record entries and often record sales. This year saw the first Dairy Expo.
In trading terms, there has been an increased interest in pedigree breeds. The finished beef market continues to remain very firm, with lots of optimism for 2013. Production in the UK is not increasing, so this really is a case of seeing supply and demand keeping prices steady. Rising commodity prices are also affecting margins and returns for the farmer.
CAP reform continues to provoke uncertainty, so farmers are waiting to see what evolves in 2013. If it wasn’t a drought in the spring it was the floods during harvest and the autumn. With the poor grazing season, lambs have required supplementary feeding and this has affected the lamb returns significantly. Other factors from the wider economy have weighed in against farming, including the decline in exports because of the situation in European economies. If 2011 was one for the record books, in 2012 more records had to be entered in our Guinness Mart of Records!
February was the highlight of the year, with the world record for a Limousin breed and the UK bull record at the 34th national early spring show and sale of pedigree Limousin bulls – Dolcorsllwyn Fabio was a 17-month-old bull sold for 120,000 guineas by Welsh breeders Glyn Vaughan and Sons and purchased by Penrith breeders Messers Jenkinson.
March saw our first ever Dairy Expo. It was a resounding success, attracting over 6,000 spectators, with more than 300 livestock entries.
In May, Carlisle hosted the biggest sale of Beef Breeding Cattle in the country. August saw the UK’s largest sale of Beltex sheep ever, and one of the country’s largest pedigree sales, with more than 1,350 animals passing though the ring.
In September, Lockerbie hosted the largest one-day sale of North Country Cheviot sheep in the south of Scotland with sheep sold to all parts of the UK.
October saw great interest in Lazonby and Kirby Stephens’s breeding sheep sales, with a focus on Mules and Swales – all fuelled by a renewed interest in Mules and replenishing the breeding stock.
The 6th Borderway Agri-Expo in November was the largest yet. With livestock entries in excess of 800 and more than 12,500 spectators, records were again broken. In the short time since its inception, the event has become England’s foremost winter livestock and agricultural show and also one of the largest in the UK.
In-lamb pedigree Texel sales have helped to finish off the year. Harrison & Hetherington sell more of these, and the four sales in early December packed the mart, with day and evening sales being held. The top in-lamb sold for over 18,000 guineas.
Also in December, the annual Black and White Sale once again lived up to its promise. One of the most anticipated events on the calendar, it featured the best of the best in dairy genetics, with consignments of milking cows and heifers from Germany, France and Holland, in addition to the UK. Buyers from 19 counties saw trade top at 23,500 guineas with an overall sale average of £3,846.
Regular marts continued to flourish throughout the year. There was increased interest in speciality plant machinery and plant sales, with monthly sales augmented by on-farm sales throughout the region.
Cast cow sales remain a huge success and Carlisle continues to be one of the largest weekly sales in the country. As the new year approaches, Harrison and Hetherington continue to look forward to a progressive market for customers, whether buyers or sellers, at Carlisle, Lockerbie, Newcastleton, Lazonby, Kirkby Stephen, Middleton- in-Teesdale and Broughton.
As one of the biggest and most extensive livestock auction companies in the UK, we intend to remain committed, efficient and professional, providing a platform for livestock farmers across the globe to showcase and maximise sales of their livestock.