The biggest single investment in more than a decade is being made at a North Yorkshire livestock market whose bosses insist there is still no better way to trade animals.
Although the cost of the overhaul at Skipton Auction Mart has not been revealed for commercial reasons by its owners, Craven Cattle Marts (CCM), general manager Jeremy Eaton said that the project involved the largest sum since a major £1m redevelopment of the facility between 2001 and 2004.
Farmers, butchers and other retailers engage in livestock sales at the centre worth around £42m each year and while the gains are marginal for the mart itself, the purpose of operations like CCM have increasingly become about providing a hub for farmers to do business, not just in the sales rings but through ancillary services now offered on-site.
The mart’s latest upgrade is largely funded by rental income from agricultural land under its ownership.
“We all have to adapt and prepare for the future and that is one of the things we always try to do by improving our facilities and the offering for both customers and visitors to the mart,” Mr Eaton said.
The update at the mart is already underway and is expected to be completed by mid-March.
A new sales ring complex is being installed which will see the current Lingfields ring in the main part of the mart replaced by two separate bespoke sales rings, one dedicated to sheep sales and the other to calf sales.
Due to be ready ahead of the big spring livestock sales, the project will also see a new heating system fitted.
CCM’s livestock sales manager Ted Ogden explained: “With the continued success of sheep and rearing calf sales at Skipton, these new facilities will provide our customers with an up-to-date, modern and comfortable resource to trade livestock, with improved sight lines to stock being sold.
“We will also have the added capability to hold concurrent sales in each ring.”
The outbreak of foot and mouth disease decimated the cattle and sheep trade in the UK in 2001, and since then CCM has been a model for other marts to follow in how to invest and ensure it can cope with any future downturns.
At Skipton, a strategy of investment has already seen a number of ancillary services take space at the mart, including by Kingsway vets, Craven College and Stanforth Butchers, thereby providing further rental income for CCM.
“We are trying to future proof the mart with everything going on with Brexit,” said Mr Eaton, who likened the way CCM operates to that of a farmers’ co-operative.
“Since 2007 we have remodelled the business and since then it has been sustainable which has allowed us to reinvest in our livestock sales facilities for the benefit of our farmer shareholders and customers.”
The mart livestock trade remains vital to farmers, he said.
“It’s an arena for them to benchmark. They can measure their animals against other people’s stock and they can get instant feedback from a buyer at the ringside. You can’t beat it.
“Buyers want to pick up their animals from one place and it increases the chance of the right man getting the right animal for his needs.”