Exeter 1 Coast and Country Auctions


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Exeter 1

Series looking at Britain's traditional markets. Exeter Livestock Market is the biggest agricultural auction in the region, sometimes selling over 3,000 animals.


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We may live in a digital age...

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..but a surprising amount of British trade is still done the old-fashioned way...

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..at traditional auctions.

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Now is your time to get a bargain.

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These sales may feel like throwbacks to a bygone age...

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..but, for the buyers and sellers who flock to them,

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they are still the best way to conduct business.

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At 1,600, blow your nose and bid again.

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We'll be visiting the UK's most dynamic traditional markets...

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..selling everything from pigs to cattle, sheep dogs to ponies...

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..fish to veg.

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And discovering how they are the heartbeat of rural life.

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There will be bargains to be had today.

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Best part of being in an auction.

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Today, we are in the West Country,

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at one of the region's biggest livestock markets.

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Sweet pigs, mind, that is.

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Look at the little back ends on them.

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The farming industry are the best people in the world.

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We'll be meeting the auctioneers in the hot seat...

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I've sold cattle for £400-500 more than what they have been offered on farm.

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..and following the fortunes of three buyers and sellers...

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You've got to think that every day is going to be a good day and just see how it pans out.

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There is a tremendous thing for you.

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..as they experience all the excitement...

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You are going to get me £100 each for these.

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-..and the tension...

-£70, then.

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75.

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Little bit dearer than they have been.

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..as the hammer falls.

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Here we go. We are going in.

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We are in the south west of England, in Devon's capital,

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the ancient cathedral city of Exeter.

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Surrounding it are beautiful rolling hills, perfect for farming.

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Agriculture is vital to this region and is worth

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an impressive £2.7 billion a year to the local economy.

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And Exeter is home to the biggest livestock market in the South West.

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Every week, thousands of animals are bought and sold here.

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It's not very easy. It's quite a strong trade.

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These are good quality here.

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From pigs to cattle...

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Up and down. Doing my best.

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Getting excited now. It's crunch time.

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..calves to sheep.

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Twice a month, there's an extra big sale.

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This is one of them.

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Over 3,000 animals need to be sold here today in just four hours.

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Such a huge operation needs a whole team of auctioneers.

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Looks like we'll have a busy day, hopefully.

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James Morrish on pigs.

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I'll try and sell them as dearly as possible,

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-you'll try and buy them as cheap as possible, and we'll end up somewhere in the middle.

-That's it.

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The adrenaline, when you are being an auctioneer,

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it is very addictive.

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And the more you do, the more you want to do.

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Russell Steer on the sheep.

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They'll be out running around the car park!

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Yeah, I've always wanted to be an auctioneer, since I was that big.

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I used to actually come to Exeter market with my dad and my uncle

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and was absolutely fascinated by the job of an auctioneer.

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So, yeah, I'm living the dream.

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And Mark Davis on calves.

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Great thing about being an auctioneer

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is that every day is different. You know, you meet so many people.

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Good girl. Thank you very much.

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And I just love the buzz of, you know,

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getting up in that rostrum and selling, you know...

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I just love the buzz of it.

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It is 10am - time for the auction to begin.

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Right, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Exeter market.

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Righto, gentlemen, we are back in gear.

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Today's challenge - to sell over 800 cattle...

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Here at 700, then. 700.

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..nearly 300 pigs...

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18. 118, sold in front at 118.

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..more than 2,000 sheep...

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Big entry of lambs for you this morning.

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..and over 500 calves in just four hours.

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At 142. 142.

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142. 142.

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It's all about speed.

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17. 17. 16.

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Four, four, five, five, six, six.

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Give me seven, seven, seven. Eight. Nine, nine, nine.

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We try to be pretty much on time.

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We know people have got busy schedules.

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At 59.50.

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And can roughly sell 12 or 1,400 store lambs an hour.

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98, 98, now selling. At £98 and done this time at £98.

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£98.

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I think with a number of stock that we deal with, you know,

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you have to be fast. It has to be quick.

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78. 78. 71. 72.

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You would be here all day if you were slow.

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It may be quick, but auctioneer Mark knows that the expert eyes of his

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buyers know just what they're looking for in the calf sale.

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Quality always sells.

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The ultimate time to sell a calf is roundabout four weeks old.

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It's starting to put on condition.

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It's starting to grow. And you are starting to see that bloom.

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Good calves are making between £300 and £400,

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which is a lot of money for a little calf.

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Seller Chris Creeper, a calf breeder who is quite new to farming,

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really needs good prices today.

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You've got to think that every day

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is going to be a good day, and just see how it pans out.

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Chris's farm, 30 miles from the auction,

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is a mix of dairy and beef cattle, with a few geese and hens thrown in.

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Taking on the farm is a new venture and a big risk.

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We took over the tenancy of Waterford farm in March 2015.

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We've only been selling beef calves for sort of three years.

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This is our first farm,

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we are still building up a sort of reputation in the market to sell good cattle.

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Chris grew up on a dairy farm.

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In tough times, his parents had to sell up.

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But young Chris always yearned to get back to the farming life.

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I just felt that I could do this myself, so when an opportunity came,

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I thought, yeah, we'll give it a go.

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With fewer young people going into farming, and a high failure rate,

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Chris has taken a real leap of faith.

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Currently farming 102 acres and we've got 140 head of cattle on the farm.

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But, crucially, he isn't doing it alone.

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This way.

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Go and do some work.

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This bold business venture is very much a family affair,

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supported by partner Connie...

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..and three-year-old daughter Sophie.

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When we first had Sophie and got the farm,

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I was really nervous cos we didn't know

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how things were going to turn out.

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The family took on the farm just after Sophie was born,

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three years ago.

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The early years have been tough business-wise,

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but have brought much joy to the young family.

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She loves it, yeah.

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She is very keen.

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Good girl.

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She is having fun. I don't know if she's much of a help or more of a hindrance.

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Sophie, no, don't put it there. No.

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There's certain things that she is good at helping,

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and a lot that we have to go round and tidy up after her.

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Come on. Chuck it in.

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Oi, Sophie!

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We try and do everything as a family,

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so we spend more time together, really,

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cos we don't spend much time in the house.

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Sophie loves it.

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It's one of her favourite jobs to do.

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She loves going in the sand.

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Other people have sand dispensers that go on the front of the tractor.

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But we haven't actually managed to afford one of them yet,

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so we have shovels.

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Yeah, it keeps us fit. We don't need no gym membership.

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So...

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It's just to create a good bed for the cows.

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We bed them on sand.

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It's nice and comfortable for them. It's nice and soft.

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Happy cows make lots of milk.

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So that makes us money. Sort of.

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The core of the business is the dairy herd of 75 cows,

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with milking very much a joint family effort.

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Sophie milks with me every milking.

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She will talk to the cows as they go past.

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She's given them all names.

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So, she knows all of them.

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-Mellie.

-You like big Mel.

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What colour is she?

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-Black and...

-Brown and white. Brown and white.

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-No, she isn't.

-Yes, she is!

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Hello!

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The cows are milked at half five in the morning

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and at five o'clock in the evening.

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Takes about two hours for each milking session,

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with the washing out as well.

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And that's seven days a week.

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It's not a job, it is your life, yeah.

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But we enjoy doing it, so we will keep doing it.

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But the income from the milk isn't quite enough to support the family on its own.

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So they also raise calves to sell.

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And every month, Chris sells some of the calves at auction.

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It's a vital way to generated much-needed extra cash for the fledging business.

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Selling the beef calves feeds and beds all of the dairy calves

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that are coming through into our herd.

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We usually try and sell sort of three or four or five a month.

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Here are the three calves that we will be selling in Exeter market on Friday.

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Their ages are varying between 42 days and 30 days.

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And we have two bull calves and one female calf.

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This one here would be our best calf going to market.

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As you can see, he's a lot thicker set and he's just carrying a lot more

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meat over the hindquarters already.

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So he's going to... He's going to grow into a nice big bullock one day.

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I would think that the two bull calves will definitely make more than the female calf.

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Just because they will grow into bigger animals and produce the more

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primer cuts of meat.

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His margins are tight, so Chris has a good idea of how much he hopes to get for each calf.

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The one female calf would make about £150.

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The poorer quality male may make 180.

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And I would like to see the bigger,

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better quality male make around 200-250.

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Like so much on this farm, the monthly trip to market is a family event.

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The auctions are definitely a family day out.

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I mean, we all go.

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Sophie loves going to the market because we get to go and see the pigs,

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we will go and see the sheep.

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-She loves it.

-I think that you can get caught up in the whole atmosphere

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of the market, but, you know,

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a good auctioneer will get the value of your stock up.

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Back at the market, selling is in full swing in every part of the building.

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31, down at my two. Three.

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160 and gone this time at 160.

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A big auction like this is still the best way for farmers to sell.

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I think it's important to come to market because, you know, you've got a massive audience.

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You are not just selling to one person.

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You know, through social media or through websites,

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you can get one person call you up and you know, they offer you a price.

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I've sold cattle for people through the market that have made

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£400-500 more than what they have been offered on farm.

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But there are no guarantees on price.

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You're not always going to get it right in a livestock market.

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You know, you're going to have some weeks where, you know,

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the trade is going to be less and...

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But, you know, farmers take the trade and, you know,

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you take your average.

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With so much riding on what he gets for his calves today,

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it's a nerve-racking moment for Chris.

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The calf trade is down a little bit, I think, today.

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Not making as much as normal. So, we will see what they make. The worst...

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Worst day would be that I didn't have any bids on my calves

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and I would have to take them home.

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Auctioneer Mark is impressed with what Chris has taken on.

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Chris is a really great guy and obviously farming in partnership with his partner, Connie.

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They're young farmers and it's great what they're doing.

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You know, not many young farmers have the opportunity to farm, you know, independently.

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I regularly sell calves for Chris and, you know, they rear them well.

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They're very hard-working, they are great at what they do.

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But Chris is under double pressure.

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He needs good prices, not just to keep the farm going,

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but to help build his reputation for the future.

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Here we go. We are going in.

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125, 125. Gone this time at 125. 125.

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Blue bull, this time, from Chris. 24th of October.

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First up is the smallest of the three calves, the female.

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Chris is hoping to get £150.

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100 bid. 100. 100. 125. 125.

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And done this time. Selling at 125.

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Mr Donaldson, 125.

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He gets £125.

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Not bad.

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And a blue heifer from Chris this time. 14th of October.

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14th of October, pretty blue heifer.

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All TB tested for you. There we are.

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Next, it's the smaller of the two males.

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Chris would like £180.

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Strong blue heifer. At 100 bid. 100. 100. 100. 100. 100

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At 100 bid. 100, 100, 100, 100, 100.

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At 100 bid, at 100, 100, 100.

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105, 105, 105. 110. 115. 15. 15. 15...

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The bidding seems slow at first.

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But Mark gets it to £130...

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..and building.

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130, 130, 130. At 130. 135, 135. Strong heifer for the money.

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150, 150. At 150 I'm bid.

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155. Fresh bid. 155, 155, 155.

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At 155, 155. One more.

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This time I'm selling at 155. Martin Dawe. 155.

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-Thank you, Chris.

-Thank you.

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Back we go, gentlemen, please.

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Yeah. Quite happy with that.

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It's quite a good trade today on what everything else has made.

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So, it will average out.

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Our heifer calf sold for 155. The bigger one back there.

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And, yeah, quite a good price, really.

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Today, the trade is lower than usual.

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The other one sold for 125.

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This calf here.

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As you can see, it's a bit of a lighter, smaller calf.

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And it's not over yet.

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The largest of the calves, with Chris hoping to get as much as £250, is still to come.

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The Exeter auction lies at the heart of the UK's most important farming area.

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Agriculture in the South West is worth nearly £3 billion a year.

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And the region produces more food than the whole of Scotland

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and twice as much as Wales.

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Agriculture is massively important.

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It's huge in the West Country.

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We are probably one of the biggest, you know, farming areas the country.

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An amazing 75% of all land in the South is devoted to agriculture.

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And the industry employs nearly 80,000 people.

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Over 20% of all the farmers and farm workers in England.

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The farming industry are the best people in the world.

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And West Country farmers are the top of that tree.

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With nearly two million cattle here, it's the country's top region for milk.

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There are even more sheep -

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over three million, about a fifth of all the sheep in England.

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And well over a quarter of a million pigs.

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So, it's no wonder that Exeter market is such a huge enterprise.

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And such a necessary one.

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It's important to us to have a thriving livestock market.

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Farmers need to have somewhere where they can, you know, market their stock.

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You know, they need to be able to bring their stock to market and be proud of what they're selling.

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You know, sure that they are going to get the best price.

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There's a tremendous thing for you.

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There we are. £1,400.

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An hour into the auction and the pigs are selling well.

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Some wonderful, wonderful pigs.

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Auctioneer James is very aware that with pigs, timing is everything.

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A pig when he's ready, he's ready.

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And if you don't sell him when he's ready, he'll be too fat next week.

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And then you'll be discounted price.

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So, that is a real problem.

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One seller who knows all about the pressures of timing and price is pig farmer Andrew Freemantle.

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James here yet?

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Late again.

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Hey, girls. Come on.

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Come on.

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He's brought four sows to market and knows he needs to sell them all

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because they can't come back to his farm.

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Andrew lives just five miles from the auction.

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He's been in the pig business for 23 years, and, like Chris Creeper,

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he is particularly focused on high welfare standards for all his animals.

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What I think you feel is the feeling of pride about what a nice life my

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pigs have had and the chance to

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not be in restricted pens,

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not be able to exhibit natural behaviour.

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On our farm, I can sleep at night knowing that I've given them a nice life

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and if we didn't keep the pigs, somebody else would.

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So there would still be as many pigs out there but they wouldn't be kept as nicely as this.

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After agriculture college,

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Andrew spent some time travelling, and when he came back,

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he set up as a pig farmer.

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There were some financial schemes available that I could take hold of

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that were encouraging young farmers into the pig industry.

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In 1994, he inherited the farm from his father

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and today he has in the region of 4,000 pigs.

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He regularly sells at auction to keep his herd young and productive.

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His business depends on it.

0:19:360:19:37

It's normally about 6-8 sows every other week we sell to the market.

0:19:400:19:43

But there's a massive pressure on Andrew to ensure they sell,

0:19:440:19:48

as once they've gone to auction they can't return.

0:19:480:19:50

If the animals came back from the market,

0:19:510:19:53

we wouldn't be able to sell anything from here for another three weeks.

0:19:530:19:57

Which would really muck up our business.

0:19:570:19:58

The animals Andrew is taking to auction are cull sows,

0:20:010:20:04

older pigs that are ready to leave the farm.

0:20:040:20:08

A bad outcome for me would be £70 or £80 each.

0:20:080:20:13

The price for the cull sows, it has been slipping.

0:20:130:20:15

It's not at a historical low, but it is certainly lower than it was earlier in the year.

0:20:150:20:20

He breeds his own pigs, so he has to manage the herd very carefully,

0:20:200:20:24

including what he takes to auction and when.

0:20:240:20:28

Every two and a half years, we have got a brand-new herd,

0:20:280:20:30

which produces lots of piglets.

0:20:300:20:32

And, statistically, the younger sows make better mothers.

0:20:320:20:35

So, we've made our herd younger.

0:20:350:20:38

This is one week's worth of production.

0:20:390:20:41

Every week, this amount of sows give birth.

0:20:410:20:45

They are all the same size. They are all shiny.

0:20:450:20:48

There's no lame ones or anything like that.

0:20:480:20:51

That's what the farmers look for, is the health of the pigs.

0:20:510:20:55

We want them like peas in a pod and looking at this litter here

0:20:560:20:59

and I'm thinking, what a lovely litter.

0:20:590:21:01

Andrew prides himself on being a high welfare farm.

0:21:020:21:06

As ultimately he knows if he looks after his pigs,

0:21:060:21:09

he'll reap the rewards later on.

0:21:090:21:11

In the summer when it's warmer, we will open at the stores,

0:21:120:21:15

so there's a nice draft going through.

0:21:150:21:16

Out in the field that they can wander into, we've got a wallow

0:21:160:21:19

where they can cover themselves in mud.

0:21:190:21:21

They get fed once a day out in the field

0:21:210:21:23

and then they come back in here and sleep most of the day.

0:21:230:21:26

So they have quite a nice life, really.

0:21:260:21:28

This shed is all about looking after the pigs so they look after you.

0:21:280:21:31

The nicer environment that we can put them in and the better we look after them,

0:21:310:21:37

the more piglets they'll give birth to.

0:21:370:21:39

And that's obviously better for us

0:21:390:21:41

because they are the piglets that we will eventually sell.

0:21:410:21:43

We Brits love our pork. But not as much as some.

0:21:440:21:48

There's 70 million of us and basically we eat about 22 kilos of pork per year.

0:21:480:21:53

There's over 100 million Germans and a 70 kilos of pork per person.

0:21:530:21:58

So, the pigs Andrew is taking to auction here in rural Devon

0:22:000:22:04

will almost certainly end up in Germany,

0:22:040:22:06

where they eat three times more pork than we do.

0:22:060:22:08

On auction day, Andrew always likes to make sure he gets there bright and early.

0:22:150:22:21

We've ended up bringing in four sows to market today.

0:22:210:22:25

And they are all sows that have had their ten litters.

0:22:250:22:29

The litters that they would have are dropping,

0:22:290:22:33

so we have had to move them on.

0:22:330:22:35

But...

0:22:350:22:37

Yeah, I'm... I'm quite pleased with these because they've worked hard for us.

0:22:370:22:41

Produced us plenty of piglets.

0:22:410:22:43

But they are still looking in good condition, and hopefully we will get

0:22:430:22:47

a nice price for them in the auction today.

0:22:470:22:50

The market has been dropping, but hopefully around 80...

0:22:500:22:53

£90-100 each, I hope they'll make.

0:22:530:22:58

Sellers like Andrew don't usually stay for the sale.

0:22:580:23:01

I don't have to stay here and chivvy on the auctioneer.

0:23:010:23:05

But normally on a Friday, we've got plenty of other things to do,

0:23:050:23:09

so I have to go back to the farm and look after my other pigs.

0:23:090:23:12

Hopefully at the end of the day when I get back in and check my e-mails,

0:23:120:23:16

I will have had a nice one from Kivells,

0:23:160:23:18

informing me of the price these sows made.

0:23:180:23:21

And, yeah, it'll be a pleasant surprise if they are to that...

0:23:210:23:25

£100 each.

0:23:250:23:26

Auctioneer James is always careful to make contact before his sellers leave.

0:23:290:23:33

-Morning, Andrew.

-Morning, James. How are you?

0:23:350:23:38

-All right. Have had a good week?

-Yeah, not too bad.

0:23:380:23:41

There's my lot. Don't forget that.

0:23:410:23:43

-Paperwork. Most important, this is.

-Is it right?

-It is correct.

0:23:430:23:47

Four sows. There they are in there. All is well.

0:23:470:23:50

So, now, do you think the trade will pick up from where it was last week?

0:23:500:23:53

-Two weeks ago?

-I think the cull sow trade

0:23:530:23:55

will be very similar to what it was a fortnight ago.

0:23:550:23:58

It ain't too special.

0:23:580:24:00

I've told them that you are going to get me £100 each for these.

0:24:000:24:04

That'll be all right. That'll be all right.

0:24:040:24:06

We'll make sure that happens.

0:24:060:24:07

Yeah, we'll have about 200 here today, got lots of small pigs here today.

0:24:070:24:12

-OK.

-I'll do the best I can. 100 apiece, no commission.

0:24:120:24:15

-How about that?

-Yeah, yeah.

-THEY LAUGH

0:24:150:24:18

Happy?

0:24:180:24:19

This is a world that produces strong bonds.

0:24:190:24:22

And James has known Andrew for over 25 years.

0:24:220:24:26

Andrew Freemantle is...

0:24:260:24:28

..a great example of British agriculture.

0:24:290:24:32

The standard that he keeps his animals, the way that him and his

0:24:330:24:38

herdsmen look after their stock, they are very proud of what they do,

0:24:380:24:41

they are exemplar

0:24:410:24:44

in West Country farming.

0:24:440:24:47

Now, he would be one of the most respected pig farmers anywhere in the country.

0:24:470:24:52

I think Andrew will be in the top four or five of the day.

0:24:520:24:56

He always is, to be honest.

0:24:560:24:58

Andrew knows exactly what he's doing.

0:24:580:25:00

He's brought in nice, white, Hermitage sows.

0:25:030:25:05

I expect them to make around £100-110 each.

0:25:050:25:10

With Andrew already back at the farm,

0:25:110:25:14

it's over to James to ensure he gets him the highest price possible for his four sows.

0:25:140:25:19

Now onto Andrew Freemantle.

0:25:190:25:21

We are delighted they are with us. Very much valued, there we are.

0:25:220:25:25

100. 100. 100.

0:25:250:25:26

The first goes up for sale.

0:25:260:25:29

16, 18. At 118. 118...

0:25:290:25:32

The buyer marks his purchase to collect later.

0:25:320:25:35

£118. Good price.

0:25:350:25:39

Another beauty there from Andrew.

0:25:390:25:42

-110. 110. 110.

-20.

-120. 120. 120.

0:25:420:25:45

Out. At 120. One sold away...

0:25:450:25:49

It looks like the prices are being pushed up because two buyers,

0:25:510:25:55

auction regulars Rodney Phillips and Stuart Combs,

0:25:550:25:59

are competing with each other.

0:25:590:26:00

And again from Andrew. 285.

0:26:010:26:04

10. 10. 15.

0:26:040:26:06

-20.

-20. At 120.

0:26:060:26:07

120. 22, 23, 24. 25. 124.

0:26:070:26:13

124, Stuart Combs.

0:26:130:26:15

The last from Andrew but not the worst of them.

0:26:150:26:18

238. £90. £90.

0:26:180:26:20

Now it's number four...

0:26:200:26:21

101. 101. 101.

0:26:210:26:24

Sold away at 101. Are we done?

0:26:240:26:26

Phillips, Bristol.

0:26:260:26:29

..which sells for just over £100.

0:26:290:26:32

I've spent lots of money, probably more than I intended.

0:26:340:26:36

So, where Andrew had hoped for £100 for each pig,

0:26:380:26:41

he got nearly £500 for the four.

0:26:410:26:44

With margins are so tight, it's a big success.

0:26:440:26:47

Andrew Freemantle's pigs sold really, really well today.

0:26:490:26:51

So, Andrew will end up being £100 better off, which is good.

0:26:510:26:55

We had a new buyer here,

0:26:550:26:57

which increased the trade and some of the other buyers got a bit grumpy.

0:26:570:27:02

When a new bidder comes along in a market, of course I welcome them.

0:27:020:27:05

The trade, for all the grade of pigs today,

0:27:050:27:08

is going in right direction, which is upwards.

0:27:080:27:11

The city of Exeter was founded by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago.

0:27:180:27:23

And there is evidence of livestock being sold here going back millennia.

0:27:230:27:26

There have been permanent animal markets on various sites in the city for at least 150 years.

0:27:320:27:38

This wonderful old archive shows sheep and cattle

0:27:390:27:43

being sold in the old city centre market in the 1920s.

0:27:430:27:46

Demand was so great they built a new market in the late '30s,

0:27:500:27:54

one that kept going for 50 years.

0:27:540:27:56

Today's market opened in the '90s.

0:27:580:28:00

It may be more modern in many ways, but one thing that hasn't changed

0:28:000:28:05

is the subtlety of farmers when it comes to bidding.

0:28:050:28:08

Bids. 5. 35, half.

0:28:090:28:11

5, half, 6. 20 bid. 2.

0:28:110:28:14

When they are bidding, they don't necessarily want other people

0:28:160:28:19

to know that they are bidding. It is very difficult to see bidders.

0:28:190:28:22

Each of the buyers have got their own quirky way of bidding.

0:28:220:28:26

Some people when they bid,

0:28:260:28:28

they will just wink with their right or their left.

0:28:280:28:30

Some people will just look at you.

0:28:300:28:32

I had a gentleman once that used to move his ear.

0:28:350:28:38

And he's one of these people that can just do that a bit.

0:28:400:28:44

And that is nearly impossible to see.

0:28:440:28:46

Particularly if you are looking to the left-hand side of a face

0:28:460:28:50

and he's bidding with his right ear. I can't see you, mate.

0:28:500:28:52

I can't see you bidding.

0:28:520:28:53

You do miss bids occasionally.

0:28:550:28:58

Two. Don't leave it so long this time.

0:28:580:29:00

-32.

-I said it three times.

-At £32.

0:29:000:29:05

If you miss one of them,

0:29:050:29:07

they will get proper funny and cause all sorts of argument and they will

0:29:070:29:11

call an auctioneer all sorts of things.

0:29:110:29:13

So, you need to know how people bid.

0:29:130:29:16

You need to know the tricks on how people do it.

0:29:160:29:18

Back at the auction, and the selling is going great guns.

0:29:190:29:23

There are 12 in here, exactly the same.

0:29:230:29:25

35, 35, 6. 36. 7. 37. Have a look.

0:29:250:29:30

INDISTINCT SPEECH

0:29:300:29:34

The sheep sale, the largest of them all, is moving at high speed.

0:29:340:29:38

An hour and a half in and auctioneer Russell has already sold over 1,500 sheep.

0:29:400:29:45

Hammer is up at 63.50. 63.50.

0:29:450:29:49

Buyer John Laramy may be nearly 80,

0:29:520:29:54

but he heads up a three-generation family farm

0:29:540:29:57

that still relies on his hard won skills to keep the business going.

0:29:570:30:01

Boys, all right? How much is that?

0:30:040:30:06

44.

0:30:080:30:10

He may well buy over 100 sheep today.

0:30:100:30:13

John has been on his farm less than 20 miles from the auction for an

0:30:190:30:23

incredible six decades.

0:30:230:30:25

He farms around 700 acres and has about 400 sheep.

0:30:260:30:31

Oh, I started working on my father's farm when I was 15.

0:30:310:30:35

So I have been doing it for 60 years.

0:30:360:30:39

I haven't got the brains to do nothing else.

0:30:390:30:41

John has been going to Exeter market for over 50 years.

0:30:450:30:48

Exeter market has been going for a long, long time.

0:30:490:30:52

You could buy ewes with lambs back then, 1965, For about £10.

0:30:520:30:59

Which now, just... £100-120. Things have changed a lot.

0:30:590:31:05

The farm is very much a family affair.

0:31:060:31:08

John and son Dean and grandson 22-year-old David.

0:31:090:31:14

-They're going the wrong way.

-Yeah.

-Come on!

0:31:190:31:23

Just going to feed the ewes,

0:31:230:31:25

cos they are going to start lambing in December.

0:31:250:31:28

So they need feeding up once a day

0:31:280:31:30

just to get them into good condition.

0:31:300:31:33

Keeping the business healthy

0:31:330:31:35

for the future generations is what keeps John going.

0:31:350:31:38

Dean and David are very good,

0:31:380:31:40

better farmers than ever I was when I was young.

0:31:400:31:42

Yeah, I'm very proud of them.

0:31:440:31:45

If it wasn't for my son and grandson,

0:31:450:31:47

I wouldn't bother to do it.

0:31:470:31:48

I'd retire and go beside the sea, I think.

0:31:480:31:51

Certainly we enjoy working together. They'll give me a hand.

0:31:530:31:56

I sometimes give them a hand. Although I'm getting slower.

0:31:560:32:02

-Two bags, David?

-Yeah, you give them some.

0:32:020:32:05

Grandad is always very keen to get in and amongst it

0:32:070:32:10

and he has taught me how to do it and also my dad,

0:32:100:32:14

he's a good buyer, I guess.

0:32:140:32:16

I'll take the bags back. I should get the feed, and go and feed them.

0:32:160:32:20

No doubt in my mind I want to do anything else,

0:32:200:32:24

and hopefully in the future,

0:32:240:32:27

pass it onto my children, if I ever have any.

0:32:270:32:31

I don't think Grandad that will ever retire.

0:32:330:32:35

That's what he's done all his life and that's what he will always do.

0:32:360:32:40

He will never do anything else.

0:32:400:32:42

He won't go playing golf or nothing like that.

0:32:420:32:44

No plans for retirement at the moment.

0:32:470:32:49

Just as well. John remains key

0:32:500:32:52

to this three-generation family business.

0:32:520:32:55

And does most of the crucial buying at auction.

0:32:560:32:58

Most weeks now I buy about 80-100

0:33:000:33:03

and I buy them at any price from £50 to £65.

0:33:030:33:09

I buy any store lambs,

0:33:090:33:10

any breed I think looks worth the money on the day.

0:33:100:33:14

Store lambs, John's speciality,

0:33:160:33:18

are brought back to the farm to be fattened up for a month or two, then sold for meat.

0:33:180:33:23

Everyone in the market knows who John Laramy is, and, yeah,

0:33:250:33:29

he will buy what he wants to buy and there ain't no messing about with Grandad.

0:33:290:33:33

I suppose I would be fairly familiar.

0:33:330:33:35

I don't remember names, but most people know my name.

0:33:350:33:39

I don't know why.

0:33:390:33:41

At 44. 44. At 44.

0:33:410:33:45

£44, takes the lot.

0:33:450:33:47

John, he's a real character.

0:33:470:33:48

He doesn't often bid twice or three times.

0:33:480:33:51

He likes to put them up at what he thinks they're worth, and after that,

0:33:510:33:54

he will usually leave them, which is quite an unusual technique.

0:33:540:33:58

But one that works for John.

0:33:580:34:00

Yeah, one that's caught a few people and a few auctioneers out, I think.

0:34:000:34:03

Russell's a good auctioneer. He is good for the seller.

0:34:030:34:06

He will make the best price he can. Yeah.

0:34:060:34:09

All right? How are you? A lot of lambs here.

0:34:090:34:11

Yeah, good lambs.

0:34:110:34:13

Margins are extremely tight on store lambs,

0:34:130:34:16

with the auctioneer going up in increments of half, or 50p.

0:34:160:34:20

five half. five half.

0:34:200:34:23

John is bidding. But he won't go past £58 for these sheep.

0:34:230:34:29

8 half. 8 half. 8 half. 59.

0:34:290:34:32

I just buy what I think is good value for money, really.

0:34:340:34:38

Get them fattened up,

0:34:380:34:40

within a reasonably short period.

0:34:400:34:43

Ten this time, they are.

0:34:430:34:46

64, 2, £60 bid.

0:34:460:34:48

2, 2, 3, 3, 65.

0:34:480:34:50

John is using up all the skill and judgment of 50 years to decide what to bid.

0:34:500:34:55

Pay too much and the family business could really suffer.

0:34:550:34:58

75? 75. 6. 7. 77.

0:35:010:35:04

This pen is up to £78 per lamb. Too much for John.

0:35:040:35:08

Morning, David. Don't come out here.

0:35:080:35:10

Too pricey. They are too dear for me, these.

0:35:100:35:13

Yeah, a little bit dearer than they have been.

0:35:130:35:16

Turns out some people have been pushing the prices up.

0:35:160:35:20

The last few weeks, we've had buyers that are just here to buy sheep,

0:35:200:35:24

regardless of what they cost,

0:35:240:35:26

because they need to put a set number of lambs on farms that they have taken grass on.

0:35:260:35:31

Which, you know, makes our job easy because they've come to buy 300 or 400 lambs,

0:35:310:35:35

they are going to buy them whether there is 1,200 or 1,300 here.

0:35:350:35:38

John certainly has always got a cut-off price.

0:35:380:35:42

I'll go £70, then.

0:35:430:35:45

The bids go higher, but John won't.

0:35:450:35:48

If John thinks they are worth £70, we very often put them up at £70.

0:35:490:35:54

And that's it.

0:35:540:35:56

44. Four, I'm bid. Four, I'm bid. Four, I'm bid.

0:35:560:35:59

Now, though, John spot an opportunity

0:35:590:36:01

with a pen of 15 lambs and the bid starting low at £44.

0:36:010:36:05

46. Half. 6, half. 6, half. 7.

0:36:060:36:10

-John is in there.

-Seven, all out.

0:36:100:36:13

At 47. John Laramy, number 2.

0:36:130:36:15

A win.

0:36:150:36:16

And he is bidding again.

0:36:180:36:19

-65.

-65. 65 bid. 5, bid. 5, bid.

0:36:210:36:24

Five bid. Five bid. Five bid.

0:36:240:36:28

At 65. John Laramy. £65.

0:36:280:36:32

And it's another win - these 14 lambs at £65 each.

0:36:320:36:37

5 bid, 5 bid. 65, 65 bid...

0:36:370:36:40

The wink says he's in again.

0:36:400:36:42

Six I'm bid. I'm bid six.

0:36:420:36:44

6. 6. Sell away at 66.

0:36:440:36:47

John Laramy, £66.

0:36:470:36:49

John is on a roll. He's bought over 50 lambs so far.

0:36:490:36:54

At 65. John Laramy.

0:36:540:36:55

And buys the same again in the next 15 minutes.

0:36:550:37:00

At 62. 62. John Laramy. 62.

0:37:000:37:03

They are a little bit dearer than I expected.

0:37:050:37:07

My lambs today have averaged about 60, £61.

0:37:070:37:11

But I'm quite reasonably pleased with what I have bought.

0:37:110:37:14

I've bought 121 lambs and I spent £7,448.

0:37:210:37:28

I would like them cheaper but we have got to pay the going price, really,

0:37:280:37:32

the market price.

0:37:320:37:33

With his 50 years' experience at auction, John was shrewd,

0:37:330:37:37

avoiding the lots that went over the odds.

0:37:370:37:39

He's bought over 100 lambs at an impressively low average price of just over £61 each.

0:37:420:37:48

Prices that should ensure a healthy profit for the three-generation family business.

0:37:500:37:55

First, though, he does have to get them all back to the farm.

0:37:560:37:59

Go on. Go on.

0:37:590:38:03

Go on.

0:38:030:38:04

Hey.

0:38:050:38:07

And not everyone is playing ball.

0:38:070:38:09

Get up there.

0:38:110:38:12

Plenty of room, if you'd like to go out. Go on.

0:38:170:38:20

Thank you.

0:38:230:38:24

Loading the sheep was hard work today because everybody is around loading together.

0:38:250:38:30

So it was harder than normal.

0:38:300:38:32

They didn't run so well.

0:38:320:38:34

Loading aside, it's been a good day at auction for John.

0:38:340:38:37

Oh, I'm happy enough really, yes.

0:38:390:38:42

I shall be working until six or seven o'clock tonight.

0:38:420:38:45

And Saturday and Sunday.

0:38:450:38:48

But I enjoy most of it.

0:38:480:38:51

A way of life.

0:38:510:38:52

So, one of the market's most experienced customers heads home.

0:38:560:38:59

Sweet pigs, mind, that is. Look at the back ends on them.

0:39:000:39:04

And as the auction enters its final phase...

0:39:040:39:07

9, 9, 9. At £69. WAR, £69.

0:39:070:39:11

..one of its least experience customers is on tenterhooks.

0:39:120:39:16

Seller and new farmer Chris Creeper had success earlier with his smaller calves.

0:39:170:39:23

Now the biggest calf is entering the ring.

0:39:230:39:25

He hopes to get as much as £250 for it.

0:39:260:39:29

But there are no guarantees.

0:39:290:39:31

195.

0:39:330:39:36

Now from Chris Creeper this time.

0:39:360:39:38

Down from Axminster. Blue bull.

0:39:390:39:42

Super blue bull calf, ladies and gentlemen.

0:39:420:39:45

That's a cracking blue. Out of a British Friesian, for you.

0:39:450:39:48

320. 320. 300.

0:39:480:39:52

300 in, 300 in. 270. 250, I'm bid.

0:39:520:39:54

50, 50, 50. 60. 5. Look at the shape to him.

0:39:540:39:59

There's real interest, with bidding already at £275.

0:39:590:40:04

280 I'm bid. At 280. 85. 85. 85. At 285.

0:40:040:40:07

290. 290. 95. 95. 95.

0:40:070:40:09

Up we go. At 295. 95. 95. 95.

0:40:090:40:12

300. 300. 305. At 305. 310. 310. 15. 15. 15. 15 I'm bid.

0:40:120:40:15

At 315. I'm bid at 315. You're all out in front.

0:40:150:40:18

At 315. And he goes this time at 315. 315.

0:40:180:40:23

Yeah, very good. Happy with that.

0:40:240:40:27

£315 is a great result.

0:40:270:40:30

So, this calf here, 365.

0:40:320:40:34

This is the calf we had the most money for today.

0:40:340:40:38

We predicted it would be our best calf and it earned us the most money.

0:40:380:40:43

I'm happy with that.

0:40:430:40:45

Today, I think the calves made about £595.

0:40:450:40:51

Obviously, of that, there will be commissions coming out from the

0:40:510:40:54

auctioneers for selling them today.

0:40:540:40:56

And I'm happy with that price today cos there's a lot of good calves

0:40:560:40:59

here, and the trade isn't as strong as it usually is.

0:40:590:41:04

They have a really great future and that's proved in what he sold today.

0:41:040:41:09

The calf that made over £300, you know,

0:41:090:41:12

at three weeks old, which is fantastic,

0:41:120:41:14

you know, and a credit to the way they've reared them.

0:41:140:41:17

With margins are so tight for the young farming family,

0:41:190:41:22

getting over £100 more for the three calves than Chris hoped will make a real difference.

0:41:220:41:27

We are happy with our prices,

0:41:300:41:31

so we'd better get back to the farm and do some work.

0:41:310:41:35

The market is drawing to a close.

0:41:380:41:39

It's been an amazing day of selling.

0:41:410:41:44

A frantic four-hour race.

0:41:440:41:45

With over £700,000 changing hands.

0:41:490:41:53

Business here at the Exeter auction is certainly thriving.

0:41:540:41:58

In the last 12 months, we've put through just over 3,500 dairy cows.

0:41:580:42:03

Which has been really good.

0:42:030:42:05

The pig section as well has grown massively.

0:42:050:42:09

We are now one of the largest pig markets around.

0:42:090:42:13

But it's not just about the selling.

0:42:130:42:16

You know, I've seen two people today I haven't seen for four or five years.

0:42:160:42:20

And to come to a market is a very special day out.

0:42:200:42:23

And a lot of fun.

0:42:230:42:25

And we are just delighted that we can be part of that.

0:42:250:42:27

For Andrew Freemantle,

0:42:290:42:31

for John Laramy and grandson David, it's been a successful day.

0:42:310:42:36

And on Waterford farm,

0:42:380:42:40

Chris Creeper's bold family enterprise

0:42:400:42:43

has taken one step closer to a secure future.

0:42:430:42:47

It was a very challenging time when we first started at Waterford,

0:42:470:42:51

but the passion that I have and Connie and I have and the sheer determination,

0:42:510:42:55

you know, we got through that first 18 months, which was a tricky time.

0:42:550:42:59

And we just love what we're doing, really.

0:42:590:43:02

South west England is Britain's farming capital, producing more food than the whole of Scotland and twice as much as Wales. At its heart is Exeter Livestock Market, the biggest agricultural auction in the region. On a busy day they sell over 3,000 animals, from cattle to pigs, sheep to calves, in around four hours. It takes a whole team of auctioneers to do it. Turnover can be as much as £700,000 a day.

For Chris Creeper, selling four calves, there's a lot at stake. The young farmer, supported by wife Connie and three-year-old daughter Sophie, has only been farming a few years - margins are tight, and good prices at auction are vital. At the other end of the scale, buyer John Laramy, nearly 80, has been coming to this auction for 50 years. He still does most of the buying for the family sheep farm that he runs with his son and grandson. Pig seller Andrew Freemantle is under pressure too. He needs to sell his sows at auction today because he can't easily take them back to his farm.