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Orkney Mart: Let Your Mart Work For You
2020 so far has certainly been a challenging year for farming in Orkney, whether it was the rise of veganism, being incorrectly blamed for high CO2 emissions, and most recently, the Covid-19 pandemic. Orkney Farmers have continued to work on, and produce, top quality produce to the absolute highest standard, and Orkney Mart has been proud to be there to back them every step of the way. Senior Auctioneer Graham Low described the challenging but thrilling year he has had so far.
“January and February saw an increase in Store Cattle throughput by nearly 250 cattle on the year. With deadweight prices rising slightly over the winter, many farmers who held onto cattle through the winter, certainly benefited from selling forward stores. Prime Hoggs however were 600 head less than the previous year, due to lambs thriving well through the early Autumn, as well as the price for Lambs being very buoyant at the end of the year. Deadweight prices for Cattle firmed slowly through the start of the year, whereas lambs rocketed from 435p/kg to 530 p/kg by the start of March which saw trade in the Live Market extraordinarily strong.”
“As we progressed into March, the deadweight beef price remained at a mere 340 p/kg, however, forward stores were selling very well to sellers’ advantage. By conducting fortnightly sales, farmers had more options available to market stock and buyers were getting to spread their cashflow. The smaller, more consistent sales also meant the Mart building could accommodate the sale numbers comfortably with all cattle being sold holding plenty of weight and sold well before buyers left for their plane journey home. As grazing cattle started to appear, the demand was remarkably similar on the year with majority of sellers averages up. Orkneys high standard of cattle were attracting many south buyers from Bathgate to Inverness as well as local buyers filling their empty slats which resulted in over 100 more store cattle being sold in March on the year.”
“On Monday 23rd March, the export market for lambs completely crashed which resulted in many south abattoirs not operating. This effectively meant that there were very few people buying liveweight lambs from Markets. Orkney Mart, knowing how the price had crashed 130p/kg (£25) deadweight, decided to cancel their sheep sale that day and wait until the export market opened a few weeks later.”
We asked Graham how operations at the Mart changed during the Coronavirus outbreak. “By the end of March, the Covid-19 pandemic was well underway, and everyone felt the same sense of uncertainty about the beef and lamb trade which was to come. By working closely with the IAAS, Orkney Mart was able to continue operating under strict guidelines. With the interest of our staff and our customers as our main priority, we cancelled our sales for 2 weeks till we could get a real grasp of what was happening. The office was reduced to one member of staff operating from 10am-2pm. Auctioneers were working from home and keeping in contact with buyers and sellers. With many buyers looking for cattle, and with plenty vendors looking to sell stock, myself, and Jim organised cattle to be sold through the Mart privately. A big thankyou must go to all our south buyers who trusted us to purchase cattle on their behalf. During the two weeks of private selling, 418 cattle were sold from 29 different farms who were all grateful of the service provided by the Mart as well as the strong trade they achieved. “
“On Monday 13th April, Orkney Mart held their first public auction of store cattle with only pre-registered buyers present in the building. Trade was strong in April, particularly on Monday 27th. A total of nearly 1200 cattle were sold in the month. Throughout May, Orkney Mart held weekly sales of Store Cattle as local demand was getting stronger every week due to the grass growing more rapidly. This resulted in nearly 150 more cattle sold in May compared to last year. Sheep sales were taking place fortnightly through May with heavy hoggs selling dearer than most abattoir prices. With more Cast Ewes forward for sale this time of year, trade was extraordinarily strong for all types.”
Now that restrictions are starting to relax slightly, we asked Graham what the Mart was up to throughout the summer months. “So far since the end of May to the middle of June, we have seen the price of beef rocket to rates I personally have never seen before. At the start of May, deadweight cattle were only worth 335p/kg whereas on Monday 8th June, they were worth 380 p/kg. Due to the shortage of beef available throughout the country, the trend looks likely to rise to 400p/kg, a price which has not been seen since 2013. We can only hope that this price holds as the Autumn months approach. The price for OTM Beef has also rocketed with many cow’s worth over 300p/kg deadweight. This has certainly shown in our OTM Ring every Monday as cow prices are dearer every week. Our sale on Monday 8th June averaged 142.4 p/kg and was one of the highest averages in the country that week. We require more OTM Cattle every week throughout the summer. All classes of sheep are sold fortnightly and are still selling well.”
We also asked Graham what Orkney Mart have coming up in the next months. As the grass grows, and the weather improves, the beef price looks to rise further. We are extremely disappointed about the cancelation of the shows in August, but it means we have been able to move our ‘County Show Sale’ a week back to Monday 17th August. With the price of beef looking to be potentially as high as 400 p/kg through the summer, we feel our sale on the 17th August will certainly be a store cattle sale not to be missed. We then have special sales of Store Cattle every Monday in September and October with a special Native sale included on Monday 7th September to promote Orkney’s fantastic well-bred and highly sought-after Native cattle. Currently restrictions in the Market are still being enforced and will most likely still be the case in the back end. However, Loganair is operating as normal in August and September and we have tickets for all our buyers booked already.”
Orkney Mart would like to thank all their customers from near and far for their continued support and loyalty throughout this pandemic. “As trade looks set to rise for the back-end sales, we hope to see your custom again during our busy sales and take advantage of the minimum weight loss and expenses by selling locally. We understand that Farm Visits haven’t been happening due to the Covid-19 restrictions, however, by the end of July/August our Auctioneers are all ready to come and have a look at your stock and advise you as best they can. In the meantime, we hope you are all safe and well and getting on with silage work when the good weather comes. Think local and opt for Orkney Mart.”
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Orkney Auction Mart Ltd.
Grainshore Road, Hatston,
Kirkwall, Orkney KW15 1FL
Tel: 01856 872520