In contrast to most sectors of the economy, livestock farming has fared better than most amidst Covid-19, and the trend looks set to continue – thanks to the auction market, whether it be live, online or both.

With prime cattle values a good 40p per deadweight kg ahead of this time last year and finished lambs 30p per live kg up on August 2019 figures, there is much more confidence in the industry, which coupled with an abundance of grass and forage in most parts of Scotland, is helping to keep the wolf from the door.

"It has been a great year for livestock," said John Angus, head of livestock at Aberdeen and Northern Marts. "It was a mild spring and has been a great summer with a lot more lambs born and killed earlier than normal. Cattle are also doing well and are looking tremendous out at grass. They're also weighing better.

"Spring crops have held up well to the rain, up here too, and farmers have ample forage stored, so there is stability in the market compared to this time last year and early spring."

He added that cull cows and store cattle are also up on the year, with the former having enjoyed strong demand since the start of 2020. At the last sale at Thainstone, cull cows averaged 153p per kg which is 20p up on the same sale last year and cows are heavier, with the average sold being around 700kg which works out at well over £1000 per head.

Similarly, Mr Angus pointed out that store bullock and heifer values are up 20p and 19p per live kg or £96 and £80 per head on the same sale in 2019. They are weighing heavier off grass too, and as a result, he expects the backend calf sales to be equally positive.

However, he warned that the rise in values would not have been achievable without the live auction ring.

"You need the transparency and competition of the live ring to get a true value of stock and that is what we are seeing. We have had great support at our sales and even at our machinery sales which have all been online," said Mr Angus.

He added that the switch from weekly to fortnightly store sales at Thainstone for the summer had gone down well with both buyers and hauliers. They are nevertheless reverting back to weekly from September 4.

Further south, John Roberts, director at United Auctions, was equally positive about the forth coming calf sales due to the increased confidence installed in the sector as a result of the improved fat trade and abundance of grass and forages.

"The fat trade has stayed fairly level for the past few months and is now at a price everyone can work with, so we are seeing store cattle values up 25-30p per live kg or £100 per head up on the year," said Mr Roberts.

"There's also more of an appetite for calves and black and white cattle with Friesian bullocks making anything from £800-£1000 at 18months of age, when there is a shortage of cattle on the market."

He added that while it is early for suckled calf sales, he doesn't expect them to rise as much.

"I think they will be slightly dearer on the year, but not as much as store cattle," concluded Mr Roberts.

There was more good news from the abattoirs this week too, with average finished beef prices in Scotland up in all sectors. Steers levelled at 390.2p per deadweight kg, up 2.7p on the week; heifers averaged 389.5p, a rise of 1.1p; young bulls rose 4.9p to balance out at 375.4p and cows cashed in at 285.1p, up 1.1p for the week ending August 22.

Those hitting 'spec are also up and U grades are coming in closer to the £4 per kg deadweight bracket with a -U3 grade heifer worth 399.0p per kg and a -U4L heifer at 397.6p.

"Livestock farmers appear to have come out of Covid-19 not too badly,"