Latest throughput figures show healthy picture and good demand at livestock auctions during a challenging year.

The figures in England and Wales from the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association (LAA), demonstrate a strong support and demand for the red-meat sector.

Numbers sold rose in almost all categories of cattle, sheep and pigs, with an increase in buyers returning to the competitive live-sales ring. Turnover across all species reached close to £1.6billion, across England and Wales, in 2019.

The sheep trade saw increases of 46,670 store and breeding stock, up to 2,837,888, and 183,446 prime sheep above 2018 figures (4,970,234 total).

There was an increase of 11,132 cull ewes, up to 1,861,774. Just shy of 10 million sheep were sold through livestock markets in England and Wales in 2019.

Cattle sold through livestock markets in England and Wales stood at 1,022,765, over 5,000 up on 2018 numbers. A further 210,443 calves also went through the live sales ring, an increase of 32,053 on 2018.

Store and breeding cattle sold in Wales increased by 2,348, with dairy cattle in both England and Wales seeing numbers rising by 4,875. Prime cattle saw a significant increase, up 15,317 on the year.

Charlie Coleman of Frome Livestock Auctioneers said: “In terms of throughput, we have seen trade back to the numbers of two or three years ago, selling to the same or even showing an improvement.”

Mr Coleman believes the key is the fact that the market is always there.

“Abattoirs don’t want cattle every week. Markets, however, are showing a fair trade every week, because they are meeting a demand, and that is creating a selling opportunity,” he says.

The LAA also reports on an uplift in the pig trade through the live sales ring. Store and breeding pigs increasing by almost 1,500, up to 33,662. Slaughter pigs lifted in numbers by 3,940 up to 79,717.

LAA executive secretary Chris Dodds says that this is clear evidence that, across the country, the transparency and competitiveness of the live sales ring is driving trade on behalf of the farmer.

“It is good to see the confidence in the livestock markets with the increased throughput across all categories of stock sold,” he says.

“I am also delighted to see so many vendors returning to the market to generate best returns on their livestock, and I am equally pleased to see buyers identifying live sales as the chosen purchasing route.”