Record-Breaking Sales Attract Huge Interest in All Quarters; SCOTT DONALDSON, Sales Director of Carlisle-Based Harrison and Hetherington, Looks Back at the Events of 2012 from an Agricultural Perspective, and Tries His Hand at Predicting What Might Be in 2013

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Byline: SCOTT DONALDSON

THERE may be some uncertainty around, but we have had another confident year, and the busy auction rings have more than kept up with the pace they set in 2011 resulting trade in keeping with last year.

Harrison & Hetherington are a large company with interests in many agricultural areas, and seven marts across north west England and south west Scotland. Our performance is a good indicator of the strengths present in the rural economy. The weather is depressing and has affected so many farmers this year, and we fully expect that these affects will be seen well into 2013.

During the year as a whole, more than 600 sales have been held, and over 700,000 head of livestock changed hands. Animals of all kinds have passed under the gavel - everything from sheep to sheepdogs, and cows to camelids - to say nothing of farm machinery and equipment.

The flagships of the year have undoubtedly been the specialist Agri-Expos and Show Sales, with their attendant record entries and often record sales. This year saw the first Dairy Expo. In trading terms, there has been an increased interest in pedigree breeds. The finished beef market continues to remain very firm, with lots of optimism for 2013. Production in the UK is not increasing, so this really is a case of seeing supply and demand keeping prices steady. Rising commodity prices are also affecting margins and returns for the farmer.

CAP reform continues to provoke uncertainty, so farmers are waiting to see what evolves in 2013. If it wasn't a drought in the spring it was the floods during harvest and the autumn. With the poor grazing season, lambs have required supplementary feeding and this has affected the lamb returns significantly. Other factors from the wider economy have weighed in against farming, including the decline in exports because of the situation in European economies. If 2011 was one for the record books, in 2012 more records had to be entered in our Guinness Mart of Records!

February was the highlight of the year, with the world record for a Limousin breed and the UK bull record at the 34th national early spring show and sale of pedigree Limousin bulls - Dolcorsllwyn Fabio was a 17-month-old bull sold for 120,000 guineas by Welsh breeders Glyn Vaughan and Sons and purchased by Penrith breeders Messers Jenkinson.

March saw our first ever Dairy Expo. It was a resounding success, attracting over 6,000 spectators, with more than 300 livestock entries.

In May, Carlisle hosted the biggest sale of Beef Breeding Cattle in the country. …