The number of livestock sold through Scotland’s marts in 2020 was up nearly 10% on the previous year and total value grew by 17.5% to more than £556 million.
The latest figures from the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS) cover the period when the auction system continued to function during the pandemic, albeit under tight restrictions.
However, with footfall increasing at marts, the IAAS has appealed to farmers to abide by the rules and wear masks when they attend sales.
IAAS executive director, Neil Wilson, said: “We hear from our members that many customers continue to ignore the request to wear masks at the mart.
“We ask you to please keep each other, and mart staff, safe and wear a mask when asked to. Without mart staff, the trade cannot continue. The livestock industry is strongest when we all stand together.”
He added: “In a year when Defra figures noted a 3.7% drop in overall sheep production, it was pleasing to see that the number of sheep going through Scottish rings for slaughter actually rose by 10%.”
Jim Craig, the managing director of Craig Wilson, Ayr, pointed out that 2020’s good growing season meant there were more lambs to sell than usual.
“Those that were still left at the end of the selling season made a super premium,” he said.
“Covid meant that sellers weren’t allowed in around the ring, but I’m very chuffed that the trust was there to let us dispose of stock anyway. Everything we do is built on trust.
“Had the market system not been allowed to function during that time, the price of sheep and cattle would have plummeted.”
Dingwall and Highland Marts managing director, Grant Macpherson said this year’s sales were booming – until increases in fertiliser prices cooled the market.
“Cattle were going great, with the first couple of sales in September at about £3/kg for smaller calves,” he said.
“Although the fertiliser situation has dampened things, a lot of cattle have already been sold. Sheep though, are going well, and prime sheep are ahead of last year’s prices, with lambs about £40 higher.”