The world famous Perth bull sales are no more.
They are now to be officially known as the Stirling version.
There is logic to this in that United Auctions, organiser of the sales and one of Scotland’s largest livestock auctioneering firms, moved from Perth to Stirling three years ago to a new agricultural centre but continued to brand the sales as “Perth”.
United Auctions believe that it now makes sense to re-name the sales, much to the delight of local MPs and MSPs.
The Perth connection, which dates back to 1865, has come to an end and a new era in the ever-changing world of livestock selling ushered in.
Anecdotally, the sales were being increasingly referred to as the Stirling bull sales and from October the name will have an official endorsement.
Will it mean much in the world of commercial buying and selling of pedigree bulls?
It’s unlikely. The auctioneering sector has gone through some dramatic changes in the last three decades and continues to survive in a scaled-down form.
Rationalisation, centralisation and concentration on new agricultural centres have marked the period.
At one time, city markets were in vogue – Perth, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen were classic examples – and they stood as integral parts of the urban landscape.
But the appetite for having livestock markets within cities faded and market companies were encouraged to find new locations beyond the town walls.
The prospect of having cattle and sheep traversing the streets in rapidly growing urban centres did not find favour with planning officials – nor with residents in Glasgow, who occasionally came face to face with a startled, market-bound beast on a tenement stairwell.
I have more than a passing interest in auction marts, having spent a great deal of my journalistic life covering them and their doings.
The Perth bull sales were high on my list not simply because of the location, but because they acquired an iconic and international status.
Bulls were sold all over the world, and so it remains, a factor that has given the event an appeal that transcends most pedigree livestock sales.
But that is not to marginalise other centres. In my early days as a reporter,
I found many sales held a touch of theatre, an air of tension from time to time as prices climbed and records tumbled, and a sense of being in the middle of a more than ordinary farming event.
Auction marts, as John Thomson points out in his personal account of the auctioneering business, Ring of Memories, held their own hinterland and nurtured their clientele.
And they played what the Institute of Auctioneer and Appraisers for Scotland have always argued was an effective, transparent and valued role in the process of buying and selling livestock which has stood the test of time over two centuries.
Reporting sales was a mechanical process. Poring over lists of top prices, working out sale averages, struggling with exotic, sometimes unpronounceable pedigree names, and long days watching the auctioneer’s gavel rise and fall and the fortunes of sellers confirmed or denied.
But in the midst of the mechanics, there was also the search for a story, something to brighten up the pages of prices, and offer a human touch in contrast to catalogues of beasts.
At Perth, this came occasionally from a foreign buyer, speaking through an interpreter, or a breeder starting a new herd with loads of cash to hand.
Equally, bodies such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds occasionally dipped into their pockets and bought a bull for their properties.
But at centres throughout Scotland, whether at Castle Douglas, Lairg or Lockerbie, if all else failed and there was little of note about the sale, the enterprising journalist could easily turn to the auctioneer, hoarse and flush from hours of selling, for a comment to sum up the event.
These came from a well-rehearsed reservoir of phrases which were carefully constructed to avoid controversy, criticism or pessimism and which unfailingly presented the sales as an unqualified success, and further underlined the position of the day as an extraordinary and unique occurrence.
Livestock auctioneers are a breed apart, not merely the conductors of the sale with the ability to control its rhythm and dynamics, but with an unsurpassed knowledge of their customers, their habits, preferences and singular ways of indicating interest while bidding – often hidden from all but the auctioneer.
They can make or break a sale in a moment, wherever the venue.
Meat Trade News Daily Supporting British Pig Farmers
Source: the scotsman
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