Sedgemoor Auction Centre, the largest livestock market in the South of England, has seen its sales of sheep pass the 3 million mark.

As an essential business the market run by Greenslade Taylor Hunt adjacent to Junction 24 of the M5 motorway at Bridgwater, Somerset, has continued to service the agricultural industry throughout much of the lockdown and restrictions brought about by COVID-19.

Even with the market operating the strictest COVID regulations and with vendors strongly dissuaded from attending at sale times, this has been no barrier to trade, which has been strong throughout 2020 and into 2021

Paul Ashton, who is the principal sheep auctioneer at Sedgemoor Auction Centre, said: "We have seen an increase in the numbers of store lambs sold, but a significant drop in the number of cull ewes and couples. The couples numbers were decimated by the lockdown in March/April and the cull ewe numbers have come back from the highs of the past two years. This is predominantly due, I believe, to the relative cost of replacements. For the past two years farmers have been able to sell equivalent cull ewes and replace with young breeders for around £20/head. This year due to a national shortage of breeders and a steady cull trade, due to the closure of restaurants, the difference has been in the region of £50/head. Farmers have, therefore, been much more cautious in selling culls with small faults being allowed to breed again.

“Our breeding ewe section has bucked the national trend, with many centres reporting much lower breeding ewe numbers, we saw the highest ever number sold last year. This has helped contribute towards us having passed the three million sheep sold since Sedgemoor Auction Centre opened in 2008.

“Regarding the finished lamb trade, the trade has been at unprecedented levels going into 2021.

“The export demand is currently very strong, having a signed deal has ensured no tariffs on British lamb and this has massively helped the sheep market. In addition China has diverted much of the New Zealand lamb destined for our shores, leaving the British domestic market short.”

At Monday’s market finished hoggs sold to £144/head and 282 pence per kilo. The average price for all lambs sold was £123/head.

On Friday, store lambs averaged over £100 a head, while on Saturday a very strong demand for cull ewes saw prices up to £169/head.

“Trade is strong across the board,” noted Paul.

The next seasonal sale of in lamb ewes takes place on Saturday, February 13, at 12 noon at Sedgemoor Auction Centre. There are weekly sales for store lambs on Fridays at 4pm, cull ewes, couples, and goats on Saturdays from 10am and finished lambs on Mondays at 11.15am For more information and to enter stock please call the market office on 01278 410278, or Paul Ashton on 07866673857.