Monday, 24 September 2018

Skipton Auction Mart, Ribble Herd Dispersal

The auction mart at Skipton hosted a fairly unique event on the 22nd September: the sale of an entire herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle, about 400 animals.

CCM Auctions (the Skipton mart) teamed up with auctioneers from Scottish United Auctions, with a big team of clippers to prepare the animals for the ring.

The seller was Mr Henry Rowntree, of Clitheroe. It's actually quite hard to imagine what he must have been thinking about while standing attentively in the shadows behind the auctioneer. Apart from the obvious "I hope I get good prices for my livestock", I would imagine that there were some very mixed feelings at seeing what is clearly decades of hard work being sold off in its entirety. I don't doubt that he was looking to see who bought each animal just to check that his cattle were heading off to good homes. (And now he heads off to a well earned retirement.)

CCM Auctions said it was possibly the biggest and busiest sale they have ever held, and the ring certainly was packed tight, with a rapt crowd, making notes in their thick sale catalogues, teeming with statistics which don't mean a great deal to the layperson unless you do a bit of background reading: "eye muscle area" and "calving ease" etc. The auctioneers kept up the fearsome pace and for hours and hours all you could hear in the ring were numbers being shouted out rapidly and clearly in their precise Scottish accents.

Outside the ring were the clippers at work, a team of about half a dozen men processing each animal to give it its day of beauty treatment. Basically, a quick wash and blow dry. Their industrial blow dry units drowned out even the auctioneers. I heard one woman looking down on them from the gantry comment that she wished her hairdresser could work as quick as they did. "But they do look a bit rough." Especially the man on duty at the rear of the animals: anybody fancy several hours of cleaning up nervous cattle's backsides..? My hat goes off to him (and I hope the mart has showers on site).

The sale was a success for all apparently, with the top heifer and bull both selling for prices of £7,500, and very few animals going for less than about £2,500: these were certainly pedigree animals, and I overheard a couple of farmers in the cafe afterwards wondering who was actually buying them: it is likely that many of the buyers were not local, and many of the animals may be going out to start herds overseas, all the way from sunny Clitheroe to... Japan? Argentina? Who knows.

As the auctioneer remarked when the £7,500 heifer left the ring: "There goes the next generation right there ladies and gentlemen."