A full and varied day of duties for auctioneer and fieldsman Charlie Coleman
Wednesday’s are market day in Frome, so it’s a 6.30/7am start to arrive in good time to greet farmers and lend a hand un-loading their stock. I meet the buyers a little later, when they arrive to take a look at the lots on offer. Farmers and buyers are the people who make the market happen, and knowing them and earning their trust is essential.
At this time of year, we’re coming into the busy Spring calf market and today I could be selling as many as 400 calves and reared calves. Selling starts at 10am, and by the time I’ve finished I’ve earnt my lunch, so head to the office to iron out any issues or discrepancies and write the market reports over a sandwich. These reports are circulated to vendors, and posted on the website reporting a strong market trade.
After market, I am heading to a farm in Dorset to look at some Store Cattle potentially being sent to market on Friday. Sometimes when I arrive at the farm, the greatest challenge can be finding the farmer! He could be anywhere from in the parlour, out in the field to down a drain, on this occasion though he was just finishing late lunch!
My visit starts with a good catch up across the kitchen table, chatting about anything from the beef trade to the price of feed, but then it’s out to look at a pen of 40 mixed store cattle, picking the ones ready for the market on Friday. The cattle trade is ever-changing, and varies enormously across regions and seasons. This client hasn’t been to Frome market for a year or so, and is very interested to see what I think his stock might be worth. We select the 20 which I feel are the right age and type for the current trade, and book them in for Friday.
Across the yard, the farmer has a stack of 376 D4000 hay bales (I know because I counted them) which are surplus to requirement and have therefore been entered in our next collective Fodder Sale. I pull a sample from a bale to get an idea of the type of hay, it’s lovely, soft grass, ideal for feeding calves so I book it in.
We then venture off for a bit of a farm tour, looking at young stock and a new venture into rearing lambs, which we hope to see coming through the market in a few months’ time. This opportunity to spend time with farmers is very rewarding for me. It’s a chance to talk about existing farming methods, explore new ideas, and see how the range of skills we have within our on-site sales and wider agricultural departments may assist in making those decisions. It may be deciding to upgrade a piece of machinery or equipment, it may be some assistance with grants, but it’s all done in an informal – and hopefully constructive way for the future of the farm. This time, I’m asked to keep an eye out for some new square feeders in our forthcoming dispersal sales.The final appointment of the day is to drop in to a TB in cattle conference, hosted by the TB Advisory Service. TB is one of – if not the biggest factor in beef and dairy farming, as it can completely lock down any stock movement on a farm and thus prompt complete re-structuring of a business. Today’s meeting draws around 200 farmers from a wide area, who listen to an update on current TB statistics across the region, and steps being taken to eradicate the disease.
A programme of 6 monthly testing is being phased in, with tighter test controls in the hope of increasing the chance of a breakdown with all areas and ultimately to eradicate the disease more quickly. Where TB has been found in stock, movement of all stock on the farm is restricted without a licence. Today’s updated information relating to those licences is invaluable. Isolation units and Approved Finishing Units have been established to help farmers release stock, both privately and through the market, so it’s vital that I am fully abreast of regulations to ensure I can give clients the most up to date advice.
Head brimming with facts, figures, calves, hay, lambs and legislation, it’s back to Gillingham for rugby training and a well-deserved pint.