The early outlook for 2019 in the prime cattle trade looks encouraging. Many customers looked to off-load cattle earlier to avoid increasing feed costs, and it looks like numbers may tighten as we enter the New Year.

As always, the store cattle trade will be determined by available feed and funds, but if we see the finished trade firming, buyer confidence will surely rise. Suckler cow numbers in our region are under pressure from increased costs and any drop in store cattle values could possibly result in more herds being sold – something we don’t want to see.

This spring will see our participation in a trial of an EID system for cattle, promoted widely by IAAS and other stakeholders. Improved tracking information – bringing benefits for improved market efficiency and information for buyers and sellers – will be a key part of the process of providing the modern leading-edge mart experience of the future. I’m glad the marts are leading on it.

We also have big development plans for our current site in St Boswells. Both initiatives will mean we offer a much-improved livestock mart customer experience and create a comprehensive agricultural business hub alongside the planned regeneration of the centre of Newtown St Boswells.

The Scottish Borders is renowned for mixed farm enterprises, with the quality of cattle and sheep produced in this fertile area being the envy of the country. However, with Brexit looming, the future of livestock production in the Borders is uncertain. High tariffs for lamb exports could have a devastating effect on farm incomes in the coming months and years. It sounds like that message is starting to get through nationally, we need to hope that sense prevails, and the rural economy is not risked by those ignorant of the threat we face.

In the short term, we need a transition period to give certainty, and then a determination to work out a long-term plan trading relationship with the EU that guarantees our customers, in St Boswells or across the country, a sustainable future for farming.

Tom Story is an auctioneer at St Boswells Mart, a member of IAAS