Markets have a future but some are better placed than others i.e. being 25 miles away from the nearest pig market makes pig farming an unviable. Markets are a vital part of social life for a lot of people – though most are seniors.
The modern mart has fur/feather/breed shows, local food, meeting spaces, teaching rooms, internet/biz advice centre. Farmers want to reverse in and drop the tailgate and have confidence that the Mart staff can do the rest.
Social media is used on a wide scale to promote pedigree stock prior to auction and E-auction helps where stock are far from processors.
Other comments were that markets added cost and are a risk to biosecurity and traceability.
Dealers have a place as part of a thriving competitive and transparent marketing system and more producer organisations are needed to improve collective selling power.
Auction marts commented that they display all TB status for buyers all herds & flocks provide information on vaccination & herd health for breeding & store sales.
The discussion held on Thursday 31st January 2013 looked at the topic of “Livestock auctions – fit for the future?” and generated a total of 370 tweets on the topic from 78 participants. These included farmers, agri-food businesses, rural advisors, land agents, lawyers, journalists, academics and NFU officeholders, as well as members of the general public.
Q1: How close is the livestock auction to your farm, and how often do you buy or sell livestock there?
- Nearest market is 4 miles away but go 15 or 30 miles to better markets
- Markets do have a place in future but some are better placed than others, facilities, modern approach etc.
- Malton–20 miles approx. used to sell fat lambs every week but now were just arable
- Bakewell Market is 15 miles from farm! Go every Monday but buy and sell once a month
- York is very close by and I go there twice a week, but we have Malton ,Selby and Thirsk marts handy also
- Our closest auction is 15 miles away, main breeding, store auctions are over an hour
- We have a small mart within 10 miles where we sell culls, tups, butcher’s lambs and in lamb gimmers
- Shrewsbury 10 miles about twice a month selling calves and cull cows
- Sell all fat lambs on the hook but use markets for cull ewes, breeding ewes and rams
- Seven miles away only sell cull cows there but buy replacements at Newark as that’s where pedigree Lincoln red sales are
- We’re conveniently situated between 3 markets, the closest only being a mile away – buy and sell regularly
- Leek is approx. 8 miles from us – regularly sell there (almost weekly) – mainly calves – never buy in
- Bakewell is about 30 miles from us. Usually go to buy replacement sucklers or calves to multi suckle
- Attend auctions, chelford, clitheroe, gisburn weekly through autumn months selling store lambs
- Sell all our sheep over the border at Ludlow 25 miles away, go past 2 closer markets. Buy calves in Beeston
Q1b: A lot of markets have closed or amalgamated. Is there a part of the country where it is just too far to get to one?
- Ashford market is still going strong 🙂 The oldest Ltd Company in England
- Nearest market is now Liskeard in Cornwall, about 4 miles
- 2 marts one 20 mile another 30 miles away don’t use either
- Newark Market 18 miles from me use it to sell fat Cattle .Stores bought in from Mid/South Wales Markets
- 20 mins drive is my closest
- South Wales, best of both worlds. Marts owned by local authorities are quite robust, even small ones. Big modern marts also
- We had 4 reasonably near now all closed we no longer buy or sell
- Try Norfolk it’s a 200 mile round trip to any market with a decent no. of regular buyers more buyers=more transparent
- Being 25 miles away from the nearest pig market makes pig farming an unviable option for us, haulage costs too high a price
- I think the most important factor is the quality of service and facilities rather than the time spent getting there
Q2a Local marts are often more than just a place to trade livestock. What role does the mart have in your farming community?
- Abergavenny Market closing, despite opposition, moving out, replaced by supermarket. Huge loss for farmers & town
- Now livestock markets are out of town centres, they’re intimidating to community – such a shame
- Reality check?
- I think they are a vital part of social life for a lot of people I know, most are more senior I must admit
- A lot of our more elderly farmers may only go out once a week to socialise and that is in the market café
- Chat over cup of tea can do wonders. If you sell or buy something whilst socialising, great!
- No ‘joined up’ thinking means people don’t get the relationship betw farming, markets, food, health = strong rural communities
- A good way to get a feel for values even if you don’t buy or sell on the day
- Growing up it was for catch ups the old boys passing on knowledge to the young a chance for farmers to breath a different air
Q2b: Competition between livestock auctions is intense. What do marts need to offer to continue to prosper?
- Marts need to offer a tidy well run place that attracts the best possible stock & buyer, fix the pot holes & smashed roof
- A very simple question to answer, guarantee prosperous trade so the farmers get a fair price for their products.
- As an Ind struggling with TB the animal health side should be the focus
- Facilities and service. You want to reverse in and drop the tailgate and have confidence that the Mart staff can do the rest
- A good selection of reps would help. Kill two birds with one stone! Also you can’t go wrong with a good breakfast
- Modern mart + fur/feather/breed shows, local food, meeting space, teaching rooms, internet/biz advice centre +++
- In the age of social media, it’s really important to bring people with kindred spirits together at same place, same time?
- For many farmers, internet can’t replace real social interaction. Evidence of benefits to wellbeing & mental health
- Auction firms should look at the whole industry going electronic
Q3: Let’s get to business. Lamb prices have been hitting headlines. How is the current price of lamb affecting you on your farm?
- Our latest EBLEX figures show producers are losing around £26 per lamb – biggest losses since 2006
- The supermarket price of lamb has shifted at all i 12 months. If they dropped prices and passed it on, may find more buyers
- I’d say about £36 down on last year & £40 on 2 years ago = less income and less confidence in job = less rams being bought
- Am holding mine back for hoggets and using up my poor hay stock!
- After a wet summer, spread of the Schmallenberg virus as well as dwindling lamb prices – it’s easy to lose hope
- Lamb prices up, farmers buy ewes and spend less on rams. Lamb prices wane, keep ewes on and spend more on a tup!
- EBLEX cattle & sheep Jan update shows downturn in lamb price & increase in imports
- “Buy New Zealand lamb to save the planet, say UN scientists” was Mail headline on Oct 31 last year
Q4a: The perception is that auctions drive deadweight price. What other ways are there to establish base price?
- Our local butchers prices reflect the local trade and has told his supplier he now wants his prices to follow local market
- The lamb price situ now originated back in July, we are net exporters of high priced product in a recession
- Can a direct link between the farm cost + profit and consumer purchase price be established (via butchers and supermarkets)?
- Can’t help but feel it would be nearly impossible to do unless you’re supplying own shop? Even then??
Q4b: What opps does the use of technology like the internet and social media present for trading livestock?
- We need greater engagement in accessible electronic auctions rather than relying on shrinking live
- Social media can help relationships, see it as a tool – like the old telephone – not a substitute?
- Social media and internet etc. is very important for trading stock it’s all about marketing the more people get to know the better
- Electronic Auctions maybe ok but not for small farmer selling one or two a week
- Suspect access to broadband would be an issue for many. Then what about the miles of travelling to look at them “in the flesh”?
- Social media used on wide scale to promote pedigree stock prior to auction. E-auction helps where stock far from processors
- Industry can really improve by embracing new technology however trading livestock is a hands on business
- Grade animals by weight/condition (electronic) and let demand side call them forward (min no.) as required?
- It helps if you look forward 5 years. Time, disease, cost viable unit size should shape the thought process
Q5: Livestock dealers are a big part of the livestock sector. Are they a help or a hindrance and why?
- A help, bundle demand and supply. also, buffer risk and from time to time – earn money
- They add cost. If I could access an auction online I would not need them
- Livestock dealers a hindrance, too few buyers with too many accounts
- Dealers are of benefit provided they don’t act as a cartel and work with you
- Most livestock dealers will ensure best price for farmers; however is this middle man making UK lamb unnecessarily dearer?
- If you think a dealer is a hindrance try to deal with him in a ‘collection centre’ when your mart has closed
- Dealers provide a great service and help put a strong base in the trade of almost all the livestock sectors
- They add cost, are a significant risk 2 biosecurity, traceability & r biggest offenders when comes 2 abusing 6 day rule
- Dealers have a place as part of a thriving competitive and transparent marketing system, less competition = lower price
- Markets are too stressful for the animals especially when they walk round ringing a bloody great bell
Q6: Traceability, biosecurity and disease risk are all important. What information does your auction provide and is it enough?
- Markets are great at traceability & bio security in my experiences. Farmers though still seem to struggle filling in licence
- History of TB status should be clearly presented to possible buyers, thus increasing buyer confidence.
- We should look to ensure we have strong auction system but make it electronic. There is no need to gather stock live
- Supermarkets ask for this farm assurance and that but still buy the other stuff, just a lot cheaper. How traceable is horse?
- Bio security can be more readily monitored at the mart than anywhere else
- Disease risk is also easily monitored at a Mart, easier than e selling or collection centres
- We display all TB status for buyers all herds & flocks provide info on vaccination & herd health for breeding & store sales
- Livestock markets provide an avoidable unnecessary risk. Nose to nose contact of cattle no TB control credibility
- Auctions are watched by trading standard for bio security and disease. They are safe places to visit.
Q7: What ways are there in other sectors to market produce effectively? Could a PO like in horticulture work?
- PO could work if all like-minded but professional traders and auction houses best placed to provide new systems
- Member of a PO one fieldsman one market specialist 47 farmers working together for joint benefit. Should be possible
- Producer Organisations are across the EU in horticulture…and there are opportunities in CAP reform. Probably needs attention
- We should challenge ourselves to aspire to pig a poultry standards and apply HACCP to improve disease control.
- Definitely worth the industry considering use of producer organisations to improve collective selling power
- Producer Organisations (PO’s) encourage collaboration and cooperation. Sadly lacking in many sectors of food prod
Q8: Dedicated farmer supply groups to supermarkets are big in the dairy industry. Could this help the lamb sector?
- Dairy farmers and sheep farmers are very different beasts!
- I think the point about Welsh lamb hits the nail on the head. Hard marketing with a story works
- We should be looking also at how the industry needs to serve its customers competitively and willing to change
- With the right processes and contract terms (in detail and spirit) it could, couldn’t it..?
- Marketing an education. Explaining to customers that lamb doesn’t stop at 7 or 8 months old, support all year round UK meat
- Cannot think how “dedicated farmer supply groups to supermarkets” helped #sosdairy, why do we want #soslamb next?
- Retailers need farmers and like dedicated groups. Why not band together to do a deal on YOUR terms with YOUR story?
- Unless you are big enough to play supermarkets off against each other or have more than 1 contract you are exposed
- Dedicated supply groups have not helped the whole dairy industry just the few
- The horseburger incident does offer a chance to push dedicated full chain supply
Simon Haley, Reading Agricultural Consultants, and Alan Spedding, 4 February 2013