SKIPTON Auction Mart said it was “highly satisfied” with trading levels at its latest weekly Monday cattle and sheep sales, now operating with rigorous new restrictions for both vendors and buyers in place and set to continue for the foreseeable future as coronavirus tightens its grip on the nation.

The mart experienced solid trade for prime cattle, and while prime lamb trade dipped as anticipated the overall selling average just short of 190p/kg was deemed highly respectable and virtually identical to prices seen just a few short weeks earlier. In fact, regular buyers at the ringside actually received interest and new orders from new customers in response to rapidly changing circumstances. .

Skipton Auction Mart’s general manager Jeremy Eaton said: “With the retail market needing plentiful supplies hanging to keep counters full over the next few weeks, prime cattle trade was exceptional.

“And while prime sheep trade dipped as several major export and home market processors closed the door or significantly reduced their requirement for sheep, the overall selling average of 189.8p/kg represented a return to November, 2019, trading levels and was not far short of the levels seen a few weeks back before shortages and good export trade caused the price to move upwards.

“In fact, Mondays’ trade was seen as a rebalancing to match supply to the new short-term demand and part of this was driven by processor staff shortages and uncertainty over access to the European market.”

In extolling the virtues of the live action system, Mr Eaton stressed: “With rapid changes in demand it all goes to show how a live auction can adjust smoothly and seamlessly to changes in demand - within hours, even minutes.

“This is simply an example of how any livestock market can adapt and be flexible under difficult circumstances. It’s all about maintaining food supply, albeit in a controlled and safe environment.”

In the prime cattle arena, 17 under 30-month clean cattle consigned by vendors who had first delivered then left the charges to be sold, a strict policy which the mart intends to continue, were in keen demand by seven buyers ringside, ensuring a very good trade.

In turn, buyers had to follow an equally stringent policy of first signing in at the mart office, before proceeding straight to the ring to purchase what they see in front of them, another procedure that will operate from now on.

Weekly buyer James Robertshaw was to the fore, securing five cattle in total, two for his own Robertshaw’s Farm Shop in Thornton, the other trio for Skipton-based Keelham Farm Shop. Among his Robertshaw’s acquisitions was the day’s top price buy of £1,556 for a 655kg Limousin cross heifer from Bill Cowperthwaite, who farms on Malham Moor.

The day’s principal purchaser with a half dozen-strong tally was Alan Beecroft, of Countrystyle Meats Farm Shop, of Lancaster, among them the leading gross price steer at £1,509, a 630kg British Blue-cross from Threshfield brothers Charles and Richard Kitching

Heifers sold to a by-weight top of 256.5p/kg for a 505kg Limousin-cross from Silsden Moor’s Simon Bennett, another Keelham purchase, with steers peaking at 249.5p/kg for a 575kg Blue-cross from the Critchley family in Hutton, Preston, this among Countrystyle’s buys.

Other retail and wholesale buyers with a brace each were Ellisons Butchers in Cullingworth and the mart-based Barkers Yorkshire Butchers.

A seed of uncertainty was planted in the cull cow arena with the announcement that some major fast food companies were to close their stores temporarily, a decision the mart said was bound to impact on cast cow trade.

The entry of 26 head sold to an overall average of £638.41, or 95.01p/kg, and while this represented a significant fall on the previous Monday for a similar entry, Mr Eaton was, however, quick to point out: “Buyers who attended were pragmatic enough to realise that the market will readjust to this in time as fast food customers haven’t stopped eating overnight!”

A few beef-crosses helped the overall average, these selling to a high of £1,109, or 129.5p/kg for a British Blue from the Heseltine family in Bolton Abbey, while heavy dairies were around the 100p/kg mark, with prices for the dairies 10-15p/kg back on the week.

While the fortnightly dairy cattle show, like all future shows for the foreseeable future, fell victim to new Covid-19 restrictions, a pleasing entry of 11 newly calved dairies sold to a very solid trade again, with good support from regular buyers.

The sale produced a joint top price of £2,000, initially for the first entry into the ring, a14-days calved 29-litre heifer from Mick Blackwell, of, Gargrave, which fell to ringside regular Brian Blezard, from Ribchester.

Lothersdale’s David Booth, who consigned what is likely to be the last dairy champion for a while at the previous show, returned with a trio of newly calven heifers from his Shawdale pedigree, which he runs with his wife, Margaret, and daughter Jenny, at Broomhouse Farm. The first in their run, calved four weeks and on 30 litres, was the second £2,000 top price when claimed by another regular dairy buyer, Mark Goodall, of Tong, Bradford, the other two also doing well at £1,900 and £1,800.

The last milker into the ring, a 10 days-calved 30-litre second calver from Ian Parkinson, of Barden, also raced away to £1,900, with two further prices of £1,780 claimed by entries from both Robin Jennings, of South Stainley, and the Close family in Kettlewell.

Pedigree newly calven heifers averaged £1,900 and their commercial counterparts £1,627.50. Newly calven cows averaged £1,300, producing an overall selling average for the total entry of £1,582.72.

Also going under the hammer the same morning were 51 dairy-bred rearing calves, among them plenty of bobby calves, which for the uninitiated are new-born calves less than 30-days-old no longer with their mothers.

Top call of £370 fell to a British Blue-cross bull from Chris Watson, of Horton-in-Craven, who also headed the heifer calf prices at £270 with another Blue-cross, clinching a third section top price of £120 with a dual purpose Flekvieh bull calf.

Small Continentals generally sold at £240-£300, medium calves at £300-plus. There were fewer native calves on offer, these trading to a top of £220 for an Aberdeen-Angus bull from the Townsend family in Southfield, Burnley. Black and white youngsters averaged £47.50, peaking at £58 for a bull calf from the Bolland family in Airton.

Like all others, calf vendors also have to follow the drop-off and leave policy now in force.