Rapturous applause and a buoyant trade throughout greeted the first sale in the new Darlington Auction Mart, on Monday – almost four months after it was due to be officially opened.

While the new centre was due to be open at the end of May for the National Beef Association’s Beef Expo, Covid-19 restrictions put much of the work on hold with the result being that sales were still going ahead in the old market in the middle of town up until Thursday, September 17.

The new state of the art Humbleton Park Auction Centre, constructed on the firm’s 186-acre farm just off junction 58 of the A1 and the A68, is not only bigger but also more efficient having been constructed with both human and animal health and welfare in mind.

Reliant on renewable energy, the centre also boasts its own ground source heating and solar panels on the roof plus a water treatment plant. Rain water is collected from roofs and is used for washing out and there is a bore hole should a drought ever affect the area.

Home to two sales rings, the premises is 50% larger than the old market with penning for 5000 sheep and 850 cattle.

There is also an extensive parking, lairage and washing out facilities as well as showers available for hauliers. And, there are 10 loading bays.

Not just a livestock market, the new centre which is mostly owned by farmer shareholders and run by a board of directors, headed by chairman and livestock and arable farmer, Mark Dent, also caters for other agricultural businesses with 10 office units available. It is already home to the company’s own estate agents and chartered surveyor business, Vickers and Barrass, along with Castle Vets; Carrs Billington and Eden Farm Supplies.

The site also boasts a conference centre and an on-site award winning canteen/restaurant.

Hence, it comes as no surprise that the first sale on Monday, not only witnessed an increased number of vendors and buyers but also a flying trade throughout.

“We had a tremendous sale with some fantastic support from both new and long-standing customers,” said auctioneer, Scott Ferrie.

“We’ve gone from being situated in the middle of town to being on the outskirts of Darlington, so we are now far easier to get to. We also have a bigger and more efficient market centre where farmers can sell their stock and do other farm business from.

“Livestock values are well up on the year and prime lambs are the dearest they have been for at least five years, so we hope to be able to build on this by staging bigger and better sales year on year,” concluded Scott.

A flying trade for Darlington Farmers Auction Mart’s grand opening sale on Monday, saw 546 store and cast cattle forward which sold to a phenomenal 490p per kg of £3297 for a 32-month-old British Blue heifer from Michael and Angela Robinson, East Alwent Farm, Staindrop of which half the value was being donated to the MIND Charity in memory of Stephen Aitken.

The heifer sold to the Worsley Family of Briestfield, West Yorkshire, who immediately resold the heifer to the benefit of the MIND Charity again, which then made 350p per kg or £2355, to Woolley Brothers of Sheffield.

Another OTM entry from Staindrop made 230p per kg while the top priced cow per kg at 190p was a six-year-old Bazadaise from J Richmond, Dunsa Bank, Dalton.

Store cattle sold to £1335 for a 25-month-old Angus heifer from G and JH Tomlinson and Son, Sunniside.

On Tuesday, the firm sold 3194 head for their grand opening sale of store and breeding sheep where tups sold to 780gns; store lambs to £1000; ewe lambs to £155; gimmers to £285; warranted ewes to £185 and feeding ewes to £79.

Top price of £1000 was paid for a Suffolk cross Texel ewe lamb donated by the Burton Family of West Common Top Farm, Teesdale for the MIND Charity, which first sold to John Simpson of Caldwell for £1000 only to be re gifted to the charity and sold again for £1000 to Michael Robinson, Staindrop.

The remaining store lambs averaged £73.74 with a Beltex from G Williamson, Benty Close, selling at £121.

Ewe lamb averages rose £27 on the year to £95.50 with a top price of £155 paid for a pen of five Texel cross ewe lambs from the Askwiths of Middle Mown Meadows, Crook.

Gimmers were topped by a single Texel cross from E Wilson, White Hills, at £285 whilst Texel and Beltex crosses from J and D Gibson, Penny Hill, sold to £250 twice with their consignment of 47 to averaging £225.