Auction marts see overall turnover jump to £2.2 billion

A key pull-out from the latest figures is the increase in the value of stock, with a rise in every category bar cull ewes
A key pull-out from the latest figures is the increase in the value of stock, with a rise in every category bar cull ewes

Overall turnover in livestock markets across England and Wales reached well over £2.2 billion in 2023, up nearly £115 million on the year.

The latest throughput figures by the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association (LAA) show that the popularity of the live auction system continues to grow.

There was an increase in most sale categories sold in 2023 compared to 2022, despite reduced numbers in the national breeding herds and flocks.

Store and breeding cattle, dairy cattle, calves, prime sheep and cull ewes all saw increased numbers sold through the live ring, with prime cattle and cull cows remaining largely similar to the previous year.

LAA development officer, Zanna Dennis said: “What has also been equally significant, is despite the national herd and flock decreasing, we are actually seeing more through the live ring."

Defra livestock population figures across the UK state that as at 1 June 2023, the total number of cattle and calves had decreased by 0.8% on the year, while the breeding herd decreased by 1.9%.

The total number of sheep and lambs fell by 4.1%, while lambs, accounting for almost half of all sheep, saw a decrease of 6.1% on the year.

Conversely, the livestock markets saw an increase in prime sheep and cull ewe throughput figures in England and Wales, as well as store and breeding cattle.

Dairy and calf figures remained fairly static, with a slight increase in calf numbers over 2022 numbers.

Ms Dennis said: “We expected store and breeding sheep to drop with the dry summer resulting in lamb percentages being down, therefore we did not see those new lambs.

“Likewise, there were less suckler herds nationally, and the cull cow numbers were not there. This was obviously all beyond our control, but plays into why those categories were slightly reduced on the year."

While numbers overall have remained consistent and encouraging across most categories, despite industry challenges across the year, the true story has been in the prices achieved.

The value of store and breeding sheep rocketed in 2023, with a 12% increase in store sheep in England and 10% rise in value year on year for breeding sheep in Wales.

Store cattle prices rose 8% in England and 10% on the year in Wales, while prime cattle saw an 11% upturn in England, equating to an extra £177 per head.

Dairy cattle prices followed a similar trend, up 13% in England and 7% in Wales, or an extra £176 or £84 respectively.

Ms Dennis concluded: “The trade for prime sheep and cull ewes has been exceptional, as has that for store cattle, and we have seen that in the numbers and stock forward in the live ring."

“When we see the numbers in the market, and the value being so high, and on the increase, it demonstrates the strength of using the live sales ring, against other systems.

“While demand and supply will always be the main driver for livestock values, it is clear that these numbers demonstrate that the live auction ring is the farmers’ choice for a fair price."