Farmers, support your auctions
Livestock farmers have a choice of either selling through the live auction market or directly to the abattoir for a given price.
I am writing to encourage farmers to consider how that price is arrived at. In most instances, it is a reflection of the market price achieved through open competition at auction.
Farmers who sell through the auctions often enjoy higher prices and pay their commission, which produces the statistics from which the entire industry benefits. Without a competitive price-fixing mechanism, the deadweight figures would be very different, with fewer, bigger hands controlling the price that you achieve.
A wise old auctioneer once told me farmers think of the Auction Market like the church; they want it there for weddings and funerals, but they don't want to support it every Sunday.
It is understandable that most farmers who sell deadweight like to have the comfort and flexibility of the auction to return to if circumstances change, so it is important to support it enough to ensure it is still there when needed. Markets could never survive on store stock alone and need a healthy throughput of finished/cull animals in order to remain viable.
Farmers should remember that the higher the proportion of stock sold through markets, the greater control farmers have over their own destiny. Buyers will have to show their true colours and come out to bid for and source stock in open competition.
Of course, many buyers need the auctions too. Where else can they pick and choose from such a varied selection, marshalled in one place and selected into lots for them?
The system may have been around for a long time, but that is because it is fundamentally sound. Neglect it at your peril!
Alastair Sneddon, chairman, Livestock Auctioneers' Association
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