CCM Skipton cements impact in cattle sales arena High health status herds now key to both vendors and buyers Skipton Auction Mart continues to cement its growing impact as a centre of excellence for cattle sales, with a successful 2017 pedigree beef season under its belt and strong fortnightly Wednesday sales being seen across the summer months.

For years held in high renown as a leading sheep sales centre, the Craven Cattle Marts-run operation remains, because of its central location, one of the major hubs in the North of England for pedigree, store and breeding cattle.

Of keynote current interest is the fact that high health status BVD-free herds are now becoming a crucial requirement among both vendors and buyers alike.

CCM reports that its recent 2017 pedigree beef season - four Spring shows and sales primarily for British Blue, Limousin, native and multi-breed bulls - proved one of the most successful on record, providing all-round appeal and plenty of choice for vendors and both pedigree and commercial buyers.

It opened with the annual British Blue highlight, which again offered depth in quality to suit both premium suckler breeders and dairy farmers with sires ideally suited for breeding on pedigree and commercial beef, and dairy herds. The champion bull made top price of 4,500gns.

Next up was the second annual pedigree native cattle show and sale, which built on the success of the previous year’s inaugural fixture and again provided an additional opportunity for vendors to sell native breed bulls and generate more interest from potential buyers at a time of peak demand. The sale achieved total clearance, with the champion Aberdeen Angus bull sold for 3,000gns.

The Craven Limousin Day showcase, the annual Spring show and sale of pedigree Limousin bulls and females, continues to grow in both stature and popularity year on year, and many local and northern premium suckled calf producers were once more seen at the ringside, along with dairy producers looking to add value to calf sales.

CCM Skipton’s premier breed highlight, again supported by the North East Limousin Breeders Club, continued to raise the bar in terms of quality, producing a top call of 6,000gns for a superbly bred senior bull, with the 78-strong turnout achieving a 91% clearance rate, including total clearance of junior bulls.  Averages also improved on the year in all classes.

The 2017 season concluded with the annual multi-breeds show and sale of beef breeding cattle, when the title-winning two-year-old pedigree Limousin bull also made top price of 2,900gns.

“While we continue to achieve some solid prices for pedigree bulls, one of our key selling points is the fact that potential purchasers can still pick up well-bred quality bulls ideal for a wide variety of uses anywhere between £2,000 and £3,000,” explained the mart’s livestock general manager Ted Ogden.

Outside the pedigree arena, fortnightly Wednesday sales continue to go from strength to strength, with the latest fixture on June 21 attracting a turnout approaching 700 head. Among them were a very large collective of 151 cows with calves at foot, many from high health status BVD-tested and vaccinated herds, an attribute that is increasingly being taken account by both vendors and buyers alike.

James and Deborah Ogden, of Owlet Hall, Austwick, sold a number of native breed outfits. Mr Ogden, who has five pedigree British Blue females, around 25 suckler cows and 25 in-calf heifers, mainly Limousin-cross, said he was now beginning to see the real and very tangible benefits of high health herd status.

He explained: “In the past, we have had problems with BVD, but it has now been totally eradicated from the herd. Our pedigrees have been BVD-free since 2011 and our commercial cattle were fully accredited this summer.

“This has major benefits when we come to selling on cattle, as potential buyers can be confident that they are totally free from disease and healthy stock is always going to sell well. We have also seen much improved pregnancy rates, while another key positive is that we are seeing more calves born alive and healthy.

“Furthermore, anything we buy in is always blood tested to determine it is negative of BVD and we then start our own vaccination programme prior to insemination.

“In addition, this is the first year we have gone over to tag sampling the calves and can discover within ten days if BVD is present, which makes the job much easier for us as there are clear positives if they are found to be disease-free. I would like to see a lot more people doing this, as it would produce across-the-board benefits for all.”

Mr Ogden added that he had also signed up to the new BVDFree England Scheme website – - and found it an extremely useful source for both information and advice.

Back at Skipton’s latest Wednesday sale, Otterburn’s Ashley and Rachael Caton consigned almost 30 high health Continental-cross heifers with six to eight-week-old Limousin bull and heifer calves at foot.

Mr Caton explained: “We have been tested for BVD for the past three years and have always been clear. High health status is vital when it comes to selling on breeding cattle to other farmers to take home. We have decided to vaccinate for both BVD and leptospirosis, which gives gold-plated assurance to farmers that our cattle are completely disease-free.

“It is good that herds across the country are now looking to follow the BVD-free path. It provides total peace of mind and makes cattle much more attractive to potential buyers.”

Buyers concur - and one who took home three high health status Shorthorn  and British Blue cow and calf outfits from the Skipton sale, David Pawson, of Billinge Nook, Blackburn, had learned the lesson the hard way.

Mr Pawson, who has 90-plus suckler cows and nine pedigree Charolais cows, said: “I had BVD two years ago and it cost me dearly, so much so that now I won’t dream of looking at anything that has not got high health status and is not part of a BVD scheme. It is absolutely essential and the only way forward. We have all got to go down this road. In addition, we are now tagging all blood sampling all our calves.”

There are food chain considerations too. Regular Skipton buyer, York area farmer and butcher Anthony Swales said: “High health status is a vital requirement and we vaccinate all the cattle we rear or buy in every six months against five different viruses.

“We know they are always 100% healthy, a fact that is increasingly being taken into account by customers at our Knavesmire Butchers shop in York, who keenly appreciate that they are buying and eating meat only of the very highest quality.”

Ted Ogden noted:  “A turnout of almost 700 head for a mid-June sale is some going, but the fact is we are regularly attracting solid entry levels at our Wednesday fixtures, with an across-the-board offering to suit all tastes and pockets.

“Furthermore, farmers are increasingly looking to produce high health status cattle and these are now coming through in greater numbers at Skipton, again helping to fulfil a growing need across our own region and further beyond.”

CCM’s general manager Jeremy Eaton added: “There is a great opportunity for exhibitors at our breeding cattle production sales to capitalise on the surge in demand for cattle which are tested and vaccinated, and we are fortunate that we now have a core of exhibitors who have embraced this.”

Their comments are seen as timely and coincide with the first BVDzero Congress being staged near Stoneleigh (Wednesday, June 28) to share successes and challenges of BVD eradication between countries, and generate some new ideas by bringing together key stakeholders.

It is the first time that all key stakeholders from across the UK and Ireland have had the opportunity to come together and comes at a time when collaborative disease eradication between countries has never been more important. While several BVD eradication schemes overcome challenges in their later stages, BVDFree England approaches its first anniversary and Wales prepares to launch its own scheme.

The BVDzero Congress team’s Matt Yarnall, of Boehringer Ingelheim, makers of the single-shot annual BVD vaccine, Bovela, commented: “Auction markets across the country are seeing premiums for animals that are tag and tested free of BVD, and protected using comprehensive 12 monthly BVD vaccination. With the economic impact of BVD well recognised to be in excess of £40 per cow per year, tag testing and vaccination is a very small price to pay for high health and peace of mind.”

Livestock vet Andy Barrett, of the Kingsway Veterinary Group, based at Skipton Auction Mart, said: “BVD is the most important virus affecting cattle in the UK, causing severe health and fertility problems.  Kingsway Vets, like all cattle vets around the country, have seen countless BVD outbreaks over the years, often with really serious financial impacts on the affected farms.

“Things are changing though. Farmers realise that stock are healthier and profitability is better if BVD can be kept out. More questions are also being asked about BVD at herd health planning sessions and meetings we have run with CCM have had strong farmer support.

“The fact that more and more sales are advertising BVD-tested and vaccinated cattle shows that the demand for BVD-free cattle is rising and sellers are seeing a premium for high health cattle. With the advent of cheap, easy to use BVD tissue tests farmers can use tag and test systems and know the BVD status of their calves within days of their birth.

“The launch of the BVDFree England website and database a year ago now means that buyers can confirm an animal is free of BVD at a sale just by using a mobile phone. We would urge all cattle farmers to work with their vets to understand the BVD status of their herds and, once free, to keep the disease out. Anyone selling cattle should sign up to BVDFree England and let everyone else know their animals are healthy. Farming cattle is more profitable without BVD.”

Meanwhile, back in the pedigree cattle arena, CCM Skipton is looking forward to two high profile fixtures this Autumn – the annual show and sale of Beef Shorthorn bulls and females on behalf of The Beef Shorthorn Cattle Society, on Wednesday, November 8, and, three days later on Saturday, November 11, a standalone dispersal sale of Aberdeen-Angus cattle on behalf of Henry Rowntree, of Rowntree Farms, who runs the Ribble pedigree herd in Gisburn.

The latter is being staged in conjunction with United Auctions, Scotland’s leading pedigree livestock auctioneers, and will be one of the biggest Anredeen-Angus dispersal sales ever staged in the UK, with over 400 registered animals and 100 pure-bred steers on offer.