Almost 2.7m head of livestock – up more than 112,000 on the year – was sold by auctioneering firms in Scotland in 2019.

However, while physical totals have risen compared to 2018, average prices dropped by 8.1%, reflecting the fall in general commodity prices during the year as well as the uncertainty in the market surrounding Brexit.

Figures from the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS) the trade body representing all auction mart companies in Scotland, show that numbers of store stock sold were down by 0.82% at just under 1.2m. Those animals achieved values totalling £314.1m, a fall of about 5.9% on the previous 12 months.

Levels of stock sold for slaughter by marts rose 8.7% to 1.5m, reflecting the desire to achieve a fair and transparent price – which can only be achieved using the live ring. Their values were almost unchanged on the year at £168.4m.

IAAS president Scott Donaldson said: “Scotland’s auction marts and auctioneers are working harder than ever to achieve the best possible prices for farmers at a time when they have never needed that more, and they’re doing that in the face of significant challenges.

“There are some positive trends in the numbers, but they also reflect the financial reality with the trade for beef producers particularly challenging.

“The picture for lamb trade was more positive throughout 2019, but everyone’s watching anxiously to see how Brexit may affect that because we can’t afford any slump.

“The worth of animals sold is a powerful reminder of the economic importance of our marts. The increase in the number of animals going through our rings highlights the value farmers place on the system. It has never been more important for the entire supply chain to embrace the auction system to keep trade vibrant and successful, highlighting the superb standards of Scotch-assured red meat.”

Neil Wilson, IAAS executive director, said: “Negotiating power in the supply chain must not be lost and the figures for 2019 remind us of this. That’s why we caution against fixed contracts which can be inflexible, negatively impacting on market price and competitiveness. Short-term solutions may not provide long term answers for agricultural enterprises.”