The Oban Cattle Sale today. I decided to leave the mountain of paperwork in the office and go with Farmer to market as we haven't taken calves to this sale for quite a long time.
The drive to the 10.55 ferry was beautiful. As we were in good time, we stopped a few times along the way.
We were quite surprised to see cyclists appearing through the mist!
In Craignure we had time for coffee and bacon rolls for breakfast from the Award Winning Arlene's Coffee Shop. We sat on the sea wall in the sun as the ferry came in. There were quite a few farmers with livestock trailers in the queue. The crossing was perfect.
We arrived at the mart and queued up with the rest of them to unload the calves. We were selling 7 in total. There were about 900 calves put through the market today, so the car park was overflowing and the pens were all full! Some calves were allotted passageways as the pens were all taken.
I did wonder if I should try and explain exactly what happens when you sell calves through the market. It is a huge amount of work from the market staff to make sure each animal is legally recorded correctly and goes to the right place at the end of the day, with the right paperwork.
Legally the calf needs 2 ear tags. The ear tags need to match their passport. Legally they must travel with their passport.
When you arrive at the mart, you are allotted your pens. Then someone comes along with a pile of stickers, each with a different number and one is glued on each calf's back. This is easier to read than the ear tags and will identify the animal in the ring, and when it gets to where it is going.
A record is taken off the ear tag/passport/item numbers so that they all match the identity of the one single animal. (If the cattle sale has 900 beasts for sale this will be repeated 900 times by the market staff).
From the pen, a note is made of the label number as the animal goes into the ring. The passports are taken to the office.
The 'lot' whether it is one single animal or several will be weighed before it goes into the pen. The numbers are written down and given to the auctioneer's assistant.
The calf/calves go in to the ring. The auctioneer does his bit, and the sale is agreed.
The amount is recorded. The weight of the animals is recorded. The buyer is recorded and when the animal leaves the ring it is taken to the buyers pens. The seller is handed a ticket which records the type of animal sold (i.e. bullocks or heifers), the number of animals in each lot, the buyer, the weight, the price and the pen number it is moved to after the sale.
During each item/lot sale, the auctioneer is not only calling the bids and looking round the ring to see if there are further offers, but he is watching how the animals in the ring are behaving, whether they are acting distressed or being aggressive, and mid bidding he will suddenly say 'Open Up' - open up the gate out of the ring and let that animal go, before anything happens.
There were one or two animals that I watched being sold, were that happened - usually when they were being sold singly.
With green paper ticket in hand, the seller can go to the office and collect their cheque. This was a little complicated for us today as the printer wasn't working when we went in, so ours is being posted to us! They ask whether you want some cash from the sale, and the amount you get is recorded in a wee book on the desk, and deducted from your cheque.
We were very pleased with our prices today, and with the weights of the calves we sold. We cannot weigh them at home so it is only when they go through the ring that you can see how well they have grown. The heifer Farmer was most pleased with, in the photograph above, weighed 406kg, and she was only born in February. That is quite a size. And she fetched a really good price!
What with the Mull Rally traffic and the market traffic we were unable to get onto the 4pm ferry, so had to wait until the 6pm ferry. This gave us a chance to have a wander in the sun. There were lots of fishing boats tied up, several from Barra (CB - Castlebay) and one registered RX, which I had to look up when we got home - RX is Rye in Sussex. (a long way from home then).
As we were waiting for the ferry back to Mull, the Lismore ferry was loading up and on board were the 3 bullocks we sold on their way to a new home on the Isle of Lismore.
Driving from Craignure to Salen, the sunset was beautiful but it must have been spectacular at Treshnish!