Series looking at Britain's traditional markets. The Exeter Livestock Market - the biggest agricultural auction in the West Country - can sell nearly 4,000 animals.
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We may live in a digital age...
..but a surprising amount of British trade is still done the
..at traditional auctions.
Now is your time to get a bargain.
These sales may feel like throwbacks to a bygone age...
..but for the buyers and sellers who flock to them,
they're still the best way to conduct business.
And 1,600, blow your nose and bid again.
We'll be visiting the UK's most dynamic traditional markets...
..selling everything from pigs to cattle,
sheepdogs to ponies...
..fish to veg...
and discovering how they are the heartbeat of rural life.
There'll be bargains to be had today.
-Best part of being at an auction.
Today, we're in southwest England at one of the largest livestock
auctions in the region.
28, 29, £30. Sweet things.
We'll be meeting the auctioneers in the hot seat....
Store lambs for you this morning.
I'm living the dream.
..and following the fortunes of three buyers and sellers...
You've just got to keep trying, keep going.
..as they experience all the excitement....
What are you looking to buy today?
-As many as I can.
-As cheap as possible?
-As cheap as possible, yes.
Well, that ain't going to happen.
This is our one payday of the year.
..as the hammer falls.
All away at £18. All away.
We're in the West Country's largest county, Devon,
in the ancient city of Exeter.
Three-quarters of all the land in the southwest is devoted to farming.
There are more livestock here than any other region in the UK.
Exeter is home to one of the region's biggest livestock markets
with huge twice-weekly sales of the whole range of farm animals.
There are some decent animals here. It's worth coming.
You've got to think that every day is going to be a
good day and just see how it pans out.
A little bit dearer than they have been.
There's a lot of livestock to sell here in the next few hours.
Over 100 calves, nearly 270 pigs and more than 800 cattle.
Each are sold in separate, simultaneous auctions,
and each sale has its own auctioneer.
-Not too bad.
Righto, gentlemen, we're back in gear.
But for sheer scale, one of today's auctions puts the others in the shade.
A staggering 2,400 of them will be sold here in the next two hours.
It's good of you to supply Andy with a bit of straw, isn't it?
Quite a task for young auctioneer Russell Steer,
who's overseen an amazing boom since his company took over the market in 2012.
We've recently, actually, in the last couple of weeks,
sold our millionth sheep in Exeter in the five and a half years we've
been here, so we're averaging just over 3,500 a week.
He's from a farming family and even keeps sheep himself.
Having a great understanding and being around sheep and being brought
up with sheep and knowing how they act and how they respond makes it
easier when I'm sorting sheep and also when I'm going to sell them.
And knowing what buyers want and what buyers will be looking for and
advising sellers on the best way to sell them.
The ewes will be over there.
And I enjoy it.
I enjoy everything that comes with being a sheep auctioneer.
I'm living the dream.
The dream is about to become a reality...
..because it's time for the auction to begin.
All right, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Exeter Market.
Selling at 195. Mr Short, 195.
All the auctioneers have to move fast...
122, John Norman, Bridport.
..but with 2,400 sheep to sell, and two hours to do it,
Russell Steer has to move at lightning speed.
Six, six, seven, seven, eight, eight.
Nine, nine, nine, I'm bid. Nine bid, nine bid, nine bid.
We try to be pretty much on time.
We know people have got busy schedules...
At 59.50, Rob Andrews.
..and can roughly sell 12 or 1,400 store lambs an hour.
All in together.
It's November, the season for store lambs.
These are young sheep aged around six or seven months being sold to
farmers who will fatten them up on winter pasture.
With such a lot of sheep here today,
there's a risk of oversupply leading to low prices.
It's a real worry for sellers like Stuart Crang,
for whom every penny counts.
There's 76 on there, which is just a comfortable load.
You want them fairly crowded so they can all stand up and support each
other but not as crowded as a tube train.
Now I await instructions as to where to send them.
Stuart's farm is just seven miles from the auction, on high ground
overlooking a beautiful West Country landscape.
It's a lovely view, isn't it?
You can just make out the sea over the top of the hill there and that's
at Dawlish Warren and there is Stoke Woods which hides Exeter
and Exeter is all behind that.
My father and my grandfather moved here in 1954.
I was born here in 1955.
So, really, it's an inherited occupation!
We've got just under 600 acres of ground and we lamb about 500 sheep
The farm may look picture perfect but the family has been through
Around 20 years ago,
they had a serious outbreak of tuberculosis in their cattle herd.
We were one of the first farms to go down with TB back in the mid-1990s.
We were down with TB for nine years, which meant we couldn't sell any
stock alive, so it was a very difficult time.
We finally went clear of TB in 2005, at which point we sold the
cows and decided to concentrate on using sheep to graze
the steeper grassland, which aren't susceptible to TB.
So the farm now relies entirely on income from the sheep.
Stuart's flock were all born here on the farm about six months ago.
This is the time of year when he needs to sell them.
This year we've been fortunate. We've had a damp summer,
very fortunate for growing grass and that means there's been plenty of
grass for the sheep to eat.
That means that this year, I'm probably selling bigger lambs than I
would be selling in another year.
Good dog. Every sheep farm, of course, needs its sheepdog.
Some can be a bit of a handful.
Max, quiet. Good dog. Quiet!
DOG BARKS AGAIN
I know you're apologising, but be quiet!
With the auction tomorrow,
Stuart is bringing in a big group of sheep to take to market...
..with trusty Max on rounding-up duty.
It's November, a particularly vital time for Stuart because autumn is
the season when he has to make pretty much all his income.
The farm here is owned by the Church of England.
It is a rented farm.
The position at the moment is that we basically rely on one burst of
income in the autumn when we sell the lambs to pay our living expenses
during the year.
Leave him, Max.
And pay me for all the time and effort I spend looking after the
sheep during the year.
Profit margins for sheep farmers are very tight,
so getting good prices at auction is crucial for Stuart.
I'm bringing them into the yard where we've got the handling
facilities so that we can pick out the ones that I want to take to
market on Friday.
There's about 400 in this group, I think.
Initially I'll probably pick out perhaps 80 or 90 of them
and put back the ones I don't want to take,
ones that have a problem because they're lame
or indeed the ones that belong to my neighbour,
like the one with the blue dot on!
I can't find whose that one is. I've got messages to everybody.
I've had him for weeks. The ones at the back aren't aware that the dog
is there trying to push them forward.
No, not working.
We want another sort of dog here, a dog that would run over the top of
the sheep and push on the ones at the front when you've got a mob
jamming a lane like this.
We use Josh instead of a dog, yes!
Stuart needs to select the lambs that are the right size
to go to auction now.
Smaller ones will go in the next few weeks when they're bigger.
This one, I don't think he's quite what I'm looking for.
That one, no. Yes, we'll have that one.
It's size, size I'm going for with this pick through here.
I mean, he's a definite. This is a definite.
Oh, he's an overweight lamb.
He's definitely one that should've gone already but hasn't,
so he'll have to go on Friday.
The average price for each lamb will be around £60 at auction,
but prices are changeable and even a small drop can make a big difference
when you're selling 80 sheep.
The difference in price varies, obviously, from year to year
and it's not predictable and if I could predict it,
I'd manage to make a lot more money from doing it.
The variation in the market from week to week can be as much as £5
for each lamb that is sold.
Obviously, that amounts to hundreds of pounds.
It could be as much as £400, I suppose, and that really does make a
Your only income is from those sales, so the actual outcome of
the market matters a lot.
The sort of lambs I'm looking to take this week,
I would expect to make over £70 for them and if they only make somewhere
in the 50s, then I will stop marketing lambs for this autumn
and try to hold on and hope that the price rises in the spring.
It really is crucial to get as good a price as we can because this is
our one payday of the year.
Lovely bred cattle here now.
Back at the market, the selling is well underway.
Back rail, 88. While I sell away at 80.
And sheep auctioneer Russell Steer is going great guns.
INDISTINCT FAST BIDDING
Store lambs are generally sold by farmers like Stuart who raise sheep
on high ground that doesn't produce enough grass in winter to feed the
Numbers are high today because lots of West Country farmers are in the
same boat as Stuart.
For many sheep farmers, there would just be that main source of income
from selling store lambs in the autumn where they would have to
make that entire amount to the next year.
That would make this time of year a busier time of selling,
the autumn, so this calendar is the busiest for a sheep auctioneer.
Today there are a lot of sheep in the market.
Perhaps nearly twice as many as they were last week and we'll see what
effect that has on the price that we achieve today.
Hopefully, there are a lot of buyers in as well.
In fact, there are fewer buyers here today than last week, and more sheep.
Oversupply could drive down prices.
You have a figure in your mind what you think they're worth,
but it doesn't really matter what you think they're worth.
All that matters is what the price on the day is.
There is a sense of apprehension and nervousness as to whether you've
made the right decision bringing the lambs that day.
A good run from Stuart. A good consignment from Stuart.
One of Stuart's larger pens of 14 sheep is being sold.
He's hoping for £70 a head.
Russell's got the bidding to £65.
Five, half, five, half, five, half, 65, half. At 65.50.
Away at 65.50.
It's significantly lower than Stuart was hoping for by nearly £5,
a real blow when margins are so tight.
Now it's another Stuart pen of 14.
72, 72, £70.
Russell tries to start high at £72.
But the canny buyers won't bite and it's back down to £65.
66, 7, 66, half.
INDISTINCT FAST BIDDING
£68 is still under what Stuart would like
but as seller and auctioneer both know, auctions are unpredictable.
I have to accept that's the market price.
With the livestock marketing system,
there is a slight uncertainty and a slight gamble with it.
But Stuart still has nearly half his sheep to sell.
He's pinning his hopes on them.
Sheep play a hugely significant role in British agriculture.
There are an amazing 15 million of them in England alone.
More than 20% of that vast number are here in the West Country.
Britain is the biggest sheep producer in the European Union.
Because of our close economic ties, exports are booming.
Nationally, more than 30% of the sheep meat produced in this country
is exported to the continent, mainly to France,
and the existence or otherwise of the trade to France makes a huge
difference to the price we achieve in the market.
With sheep so important in the southwest,
they've always been a key part of Exeter's livestock trade.
Here, they're being driven through the city to market around 100 years ago.
Since 2012, when it came under new management,
trade has grown significantly at Exeter Market,
hence selling 1 million sheep in 5.5 years.
And true to form, today's sheep auction is proving frantically busy.
For regular buyer Roger Heggadon, it's his most crucial time of year
at auction so he's watching the form carefully.
It looks quite busy,
there's quite a lot of good sheep here today really.
It does vary from week to week.
Some weeks you get some poor quality lambs here and you get a lot of
poor quality, but today, there's a good quality lot of lambs here really.
But prices could be competitive and Roger needs to buy at least 100 sheep.
At this time of year, he may well be facing challenging competition.
Roger farms 300 acres around 30 miles from the market on rich low
pasture not far from Dartmoor National Park.
We're in the lowlands of Dartmoor.
It's a very good grass growing area.
We get about the right amount of rainfall so for livestock, ie sheep,
it's ideally situated, really.
Come on, sheep. Come on, sheep.
Sheep farming really is in Roger's blood.
I come from a farming family.
I've got three older sisters and my father had a habit of basically
putting us on the back of a sheep and telling us to hold on
and see how long you could stay on the back of the sheep!
So, that's my earliest memory of being involved with sheep.
He can draw on generations of ovine wisdom.
My father used to tell me that judge a sheep by the size of his ears,
which is a funny thing, but the smaller the ears,
the smaller the sheep, and my father would say,
"You buy sheep with big ears, boy, they'll grow into it!"
I probably own about 2,500 sheep.
Where Stuart Crang was selling store lambs, Roger is buying them.
His low lying rich pasture is ideal at this time of year to feed and
fatten store lambs.
His flock is at its largest.
The reason I would have more sheep now is because buying and fattening
store lambs is a seasonal part of the farming business, really.
But profit margins on store lambs are incredibly tight.
If I sell them at the current trade,
I'll probably only sell them at £10 more than they cost.
But you hope that the trade picks up, so it's a bit of a gamble,
really, on a futures market.
Because the profit on each sheep is small, you need volume.
Sheep is a bit of a numbers game, really, because it is quite small
margins within the store lamb trade so you do need to be turning over
thousands rather than hundreds to actually make some sort of
decent living out of it.
A good result for me would be if I buy 200 lambs for about 60, 62 or £63.
I think there will be quite a bit of competition at the next market.
£30 bid. 1, 2, 3, 4 ,5. 35, 35, 35.
£900. 910, 920, 930, 940.
It's vital for Roger not to pay too much at auction,
but at the same time, he's got to buy enough sheep to keep the
I like to think that I'd buy a minimum of 100 but a lot of people
are looking for lambs to finish on their grass this time of year,
so you get more and more competition, really.
Sell away at £90.
I get a buzz from it. I've been doing it a long time.
I know I only look about 21!
But I've been doing it for a long time, yes.
Roger's witnessed the transformation of the sheep business here at
Exeter and puts it down to auctioneer Russell's hard work.
To sum it up, he's transformed Exeter Market.
Six or seven years ago,
they'd have two rows of sheep and now there would be 10 to 15 rows of
sheep and I think that's purely down to Russell's effort that he's put in
and he's got a very good rapport with the sellers and the buyers.
But in a market that is now so busy,
you'd better have your wits about you.
When I'm at the sheep auction, I more or less shut my mind off.
I concentrate on what I'm doing, try to avoid outside interference.
Buying sheep is a matter of seconds, really, so it's a split-second
decision and, you know, if you snooze, you lose.
Simple as that!
They are good lambs, they are. 75?
76, 77. 78.
Roger's bidding but others are going higher.
At £78. Dirk Harris.
And Roger loses.
-75, 5, 2...
He's in again on another lot.
At £73 bid. At £73 bid. 73, half.
But competition is stiff.
73, half, 73, half, all sure. Sell away.
Hammer's up at 73.50.
And he loses the bid.
You know that? Never would I do that.
It's a better market for sellers I would say today, really,
but, yeah, you've just got to keep trying and keep going.
Roger's got his work cut out if he's to buy the 100-plus sheep he needs
to keep the business going.
To be a buyer all the time, you nearly need to be a bit of a bully.
You've got to be able to get in front, push your way in...
Hang on, let me have a look there a minute.
..and try and dominate slightly because if you're at all weak,
I'm afraid you miss out.
Time to get his poker face on.
66, 66, 66, half, 6, half, 6, half...
BIDDING BECOMES FASTER
These sheep are going a lot higher than Roger wants to pay, but time
is running out and he has to get into the game.
75, all done, selling at a half, 5, half, 5, half, hammer's up,
selling at 6, 76, 76. Sell away.
Half, 6, half, 6, half. All done and I sell.
Are you bidding? At 76.50, Roger Heggadon.
So, 13 down, 80 plus to go.
But now, at least, he's got some momentum.
He's bidding again.
But so are his competitors.
1, half, 1, half, 2, 2, 2, 72, half.
2, half, 2, half, 3, 73, half, all done, sell away.
73.50, Roger Heggadon. 73.50.
Seems he's dominating the sale, but it's costing him.
Well, I've bought a few, but it's not very easy.
Quite a strong trade.
The 26 lambs he's bought so far average £75 each.
Way more than his budget figure of 63.
He can only hope things improve as the sale goes on.
At 325. And gone. At 325.
The rest of seller Stuart Crang's store lambs are up for sale.
So far, Stuart's sheep have sold for an average of £69 each.
He'd like to break the £70 barrier.
Hammer's up at 155.
..to ensure he can pay himself a decent wage at this important time of year.
Texel crosses this time.
There are hundreds of different sheep breeds.
This pen of Stuart's are Texels, originally from Holland,
crossed with the popular native crossbreed, Suffolk Mule.
70, 70, 70, £70. Yes. 66, 66, 7, 67, 8, 68.
9, 69, 70, £70 bid. 70 bid, 70 bid, 70 bid.
70, half, 70, half, 70, half, 70, half.
They've broken the magical £70 barrier...
1, 1, half, 1, half, 2, 72, 72, half, 2, half, 2 half.
Sell away, 3. 73, 3, 73, half, 3, half, 3, half, 3 half.
I sell at 73.50.
..and sell for a pleasing £73.50.
The sheep achieved the best price per head.
That in itself is good, so I'm happy with the result of that.
With things finally going in the right direction,
another 14 of Stuart's lambs are also attracting real interest...
..and sell at his best price of the day, £74.50.
The pen sold very well.
It looks as if we averaged, I think they should have averaged about 67.
It's in line with the price I was expecting to get given the larger
number of sheep we've got in today.
The trade has been good this autumn.
When I pick up my cheque next week,
that's the pay for the previous year's work.
It's been a good result.
Stuart has sold his 76 lambs for over £5,000.
Given that this is the time of year when he needs to make the most of
his income, it's been a successful day at auction.
The world of livestock auctions has changed a lot in the last 50 years or so.
In the early 1960s, there were around 500 weekly markets,
one in pretty much every English town.
But by the late '80s, smaller markets were disappearing fast as
big, purpose-built ones like Exeter appeared.
I remember when Exeter Market was built in 1990.
I've got a picture of me at the market on the day it opened and it
was a big, modern market, and we all thought "marvellous".
Since then, more farmers have begun to sell direct to supermarkets so
livestock auction numbers have reduced more, from 200 or so when
Exeter was built, to around 80 in England today.
I think livestock auctions are consolidating in becoming bigger,
We've lost a lot of livestock markets over the last 25 years,
which I don't think is a good thing.
But the success of Exeter shows that there's still a real need for
Having multiple sales on one site with a group of surprisingly young
-Some wonderful, wonderful pigs.
..really does seem to be working.
We probably have 500 cattle, 2,000 sheep, 300 pigs and a heap of calves
and you've got auctioneers and people here
everywhere and there's a real hum.
That's what makes a great auction place and when things are swinging
and the trade is really good, there is no better place to be.
INDISTINCT FAST BIDDING
45, 40, 45, 5, 5, 5, 45 bid.
71, 72, 73, 74.
5, 6, 7.
Auctioneer James Morrish's pig sale is another Exeter success story.
A few years ago, there were almost no pigs sold here.
Now the twice monthly sale is one of the largest in the region.
And one of the biggest buyers is Rodney Phillips.
Before every auction, yes, you feel a bit nervous because you
don't know who's going to turn up,
who's going to be looking to buy what.
There may be buyers here,
new buyers from anywhere and that is what is competition.
He has urgent orders that must be filled so there's a lot at stake for
the seasoned buyer at today's auction.
Rodney's business is over 60 miles from Exeter.
His operation is big but Rodney's focus has always been local.
I'm a meat wholesaler and I've been doing this job for 35, 38 years.
I supply local high street butchers and caterers.
I basically have been born and brought up in farming and the meat industry.
Going as a young child with my father to market
to buy the animals and then actually seeing them back at the abattoir,
that was where I got really interested.
That's where it clicked with me.
With constant orders to fill, Rodney buys at every Exeter pig market.
Remember, pigs depend on what the trade is like that week.
I can do anything from 60 to 100-plus.
It just depends on what people want.
But Exeter, twice a month, can't give Rodney all the pigs he needs so
each week is a round of several regular auctions.
Every other Wednesday, he buys at a small market in Frome in Somerset.
That usually sells around 100 pigs.
I do enjoy going to auctions.
It's part and parcel of the job I do.
A lovely lot of pigs here, yeah. A lovely lot of pigs.
I can near enough guarantee I can buy what I want to
suit customers in the auction market.
Right then, everybody, good morning.
Rather than buying it direct from a farm and not seeing what you've got
Frome auction is only just under way but already Rodney is buying.
10, 11. I'm going to sell then at 115.
With nearly 40 regular customers and orders to fill,
Rodney needs to buy around 100 pigs a week.
But there are no guarantees at auction.
You go in hope and anticipation that the pigs are there for you to buy,
but many times it doesn't quite work how you want it to,
but that is the joy of livestock auctions, I'm afraid.
When customers throw in last-minute requests by phone,
life gets even more complex.
Oh, no, I haven't got you one of them, no.
No, I haven't got you no boars, not at all.
Not for that job. I'll have the get them from Exeter.
So Rodney's list for Exeter is building up already.
The seasoned meat trader knows that an auction is always a battle
between the conflicting interests of sellers and buyers.
Every farmer is hoping for very,
very good prices and as a livestock buyer,
you're trying to buy them very sensible so you can earn a living.
While Rodney is out buying, his trucks crisscross the southwest,
making the daily deliveries.
My biggest challenge is, as a meat wholesaler,
are trying to compete with the supermarkets.
The pig prices can fluctuate in livestock markets.
If I've got a lot of orders for that particular week,
then I may be able to give a lot more money than other buyers.
You've obviously got to increase your prices if you're giving more
for it, but the customer at the other end needs to roughly know what
they're going to be paying in the first place, so you've go to be very
careful because you can lose a lot of money in the market.
It's a difficult balancing act but end users like butcher Chris Vincent...
-There we go.
..are delighted with what they get from Rodney.
Because he's local, up the road,
I can meet Rodney and he just services whatever I need,
get them specially for me.
So I know that I'm getting the same standard of pig or pork all the time.
We get through about six to eight pigs a week.
Basically, we're looking for very good formation, a nice fat covering.
I've known Rodney for a long time now, for years.
He knows his business, been in the trade for donkey's years,
obviously a lot longer than me!
Chris is typical of Rodney's 30-plus customers.
A small, local butcher, creating a range of products...
..for a loyal clientele.
Thank you very much.
This is exactly what Rodney's business is all about.
-Cheers, thank you very match.
-Not at all.
94, 94. All done at 490.
Hammer's up, sell away. £51. Rob White. £51.
The Exeter pig auction is the largest Rodney goes to.
And it only happens twice a month...
..so it's vital that he gets the numbers he needs at the right price
or he can't deliver what his clients have ordered for next week.
Rodney is a really thoroughly decent man.
A thoroughly decent man and somebody I'm very pleased to have in our market.
-Morning, James, all right?
-A good journey down?
-Yes, very good, yes.
What are you looking to buy today?
-As many as you can?
-As many as I can.
-As cheap as possible?
-As cheap as possible.
Well, that ain't going to happen!
I can see that. I can see that.
Well, Rodney, I've got about 260 pigs here for you.
How many do you think you can get on your lorry?
-How many do you want?
-I won't be able to get the 260 on.
Hopefully we should end up with, or possibly 50 or 60, or if not,
-a few more if we can.
-There's a few other buyers here,
determined to buy what you want, I suspect.
-We'll have to see what happens.
That's why I've lowered my numbers.
OK, well, good luck.
On we go. There's a couple of other buyers that I've seen here already.
One new man that might upset the apple cart a bit and I'll do
everything I possibly can to make sure that apple cart
gets turned completely over.
There will be some competition here today.
There is different buyers here from different parts of the country.
The competition could be quite fierce.
I definitely won't be going home empty handed today.
You definitely need to have your wits about you when you're in a
You need to be looking around and see who's...
..who's keen to bid and who isn't and that's how it works.
All right, on we go. These are wild boar cross so if you've got a
special job for them, these are sweet.
They've all had their breakfast this morning and there we are and away we go.
You tell me what's happening.
Rodney is bidding. But so are others.
Who else is having a go?
He doesn't have a specific order for wild boar
but knows these unusual pigs will interest several of his clients.
The competition continues.
15, 16, 17, 18.
At £18 at the front.
£18. Selling away at £18.
-But Rodney wins the day.
The very first pig I bought was a wild boar cross.
You don't see them very often in the market.
It is something I can earn a bit of profit on.
The battle continues
as Rodney and regular rival buyer Stewart Coombes lock horns.
Delighted, very much valued at 100.
At 112, 114.
118, sold away at 118. Stewart Coombes.
And it's round two to Stewart, who marks his trophy for collection later.
Another beauty there.
And so the bout continues.
110, 110, 110. 120. 21, 21.
Out. At 121, Rodney Phillips.
Rodney takes round three.
But the tussle is far from over.
And again from Andrew, 285.
110, 15, 20. At 120.
121, 122, 123, 124. 124, Stewart Coombes.
It's round four to Stewart.
Time is short. If Rodney is to get the 60-plus pigs he needs,
he'd better up his strike rate.
101, 101. Selling away at 101.
-He's going in the right direction as he buys many more pigs.
Pen 151, take them as they are, they are 64 kilos.
And he's in there again.
At £40, lower side.
2, 42, 44, 46, 48.
Rodney's on a roll.
51. Done away. Phillips, 51.
He ends with a flourish, by winning a pen of seven.
A lot of pigs here I've bought today for fattening.
Obviously in auction, you've got to buy them when you see them.
I've spent lots of money, probably more than what I intended!
Rodney Phillips is a really good buyer.
Today he's probably been just about the main man, took the lion's share.
He will have took just over 100 today.
Today's pigs cost somewhere in the region of £5,200 today.
I've got enough pigs to fulfil my orders for next week.
Pig prices are not high, high, but they're a bit dearer than they have been.
Generally, all in all, I'm pleased with what I've bought.
That's the way an auction market goes,
you never know who's going to be here to buy.
That's what gives it that bit of buzz.
That's the last lot of pigs going on now.
I shall be heading off back up to Langford now,
back to the office and do a few hours' paperwork now.
So, a really successful auction for Rodney.
He wanted at least 60 pigs.
He bought over 100, ensuring happy customers for next week at least.
This extraordinary and busy auction is entering its last phase.
Sheep buyer Roger Heggadon started the day paying an average of £75 per lamb.
£10 over his target figure.
He's bought a lot more since then at slightly better prices.
But he needs another 30 or so lambs at well below £70
if his business is to really prosper this autumn.
I get a big buzz out of the buying process, yes, I do,
because I think you're testing yourself all the time.
64. 4, 64, 5, 5, 5, 5, 65 bid.
All done, sell away, at 65.
Roger Heggadon at £65.
That's 15 lambs under his belt at a much lower figure than earlier
-in the day.
-Five, they are the five bigger lambs. They are ready.
These five are looking even cheaper.
£60, £60, £60 bid.
-55 bid. 55 bid. 6, 7, 8, and 9.
All out, sell away. £60.50.
Roger Heggadon at £60.50.
A bit of a snip at £60.50.
Finally, some lambs that are lower than his target price.
Now Roger has another pen of 15 in his sights.
63, I'm bid. 63.
All done, sell away at 63.
Roger Heggadon, £63.
Another good price.
Well below the £75 average he was paying at the start of the auction.
Now I've got to go and do the difficult bit and pay for them.
And finally, Roger's work is done.
I've spent roughly about £17,000, which is 252 sheep.
I'm reasonably pleased with what I've purchased.
I've more or less purchased what I wanted to purchase.
I probably would've been happier if they'd been a couple of pounds
apiece less but that's the market for you, really.
Roger's had a good auction, buying more than enough sheep to
keep his store lamb business going at this,
his most crucial time of year.
Better just make sure they all get back to the farm.
Right, so you're happy to deliver these sheep?
You know where they've all got to go and everything?
-Yes, thank you, sir.
-That's all right, as long as you know.
-You've got the 138.
-Then they're going to the end of the lane.
You know the three lots. Keep them all separate.
-Are you happy with that?
-Yeah, no problem at all.
-I don't know what time they'll be back.
-That's fine. Superb.
-Thanks very much, Roger.
-See you later. Bye. Cheers.
So the day is over here, but there's another day tomorrow.
Another day, another dollar.
After just over four hours of frenzied activity,
Exeter Market has sold around 4,000 animals today.
More than £700,000 has changed hands.
A real shot in the arm for the local economy,
the region's farmers and the auction itself.
But there's no resting on laurels around here.
Work for my next auction next week will start this afternoon.
We've sold the pigs this morning.
Now this afternoon, I will then start to ring my sellers again to
find out what they've coming in next week and then we do it all again
next Friday and you go on 52 weeks of the year and you're always
looking forward to next week and love every day.
As for the buyers and sellers, Stuart Crang,
Rodney Phillips and Roger Heggadon, it's back to the farm where they, too,
will soon be getting ready for the next auction.
My hopes and dreams for the future,
I'd like to maybe expand a little bit more, as long as my health
lets me continue to do so.
Hopefully I'll have another ten or 15 years doing what I'm doing.
If you buy right, it's a big achievement and you slap yourself on the back.
If you do it wrong, well, you've got to make sure you go back next time
and do it right.
So, yeah, it is quite a nice buzz, yeah.
South west England is one of Britain's premier farming areas, and at its heart is Exeter Livestock Market - the biggest agricultural auction in the West Country. On a busy day, they can sell nearly 4,000 animals here - from cattle and pigs to sheep and calves - and turnover as much as £700,000.
For sheer scale, one animal outstrips them all - sheep. There are nearly 2,500 to sell today. In fact, the auction was taken over by new management five and a half years ago, and they have just celebrated selling one million sheep in that time. Seller Stuart Crang is bringing 80 sheep to market today. Sheep rearing is seasonal, and he has to make the most of his income in the next few months, so prices are vital. With the average sheep selling for around £60, every pound can make a real difference. Buyer Roger Heggadon has to take care he doesn't pay too much. With nearly 2,000 sheep on his farm, and another 100 to buy today, it's a volume business that needs a clear head at auction. In the pig auction next door, buyer Rodney Phillips needs volume too. With over 40 regular customers to supply across the West Country - from butchers to wholesalers - he needs to buy at least 100 pigs to meet all his orders and keep his customers happy.