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Dingwall auction firm's decision to withdraw livestock sales from island mart 'not taken lightly'

By Niall Harkiss

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Dingwall and Highland Marts (DHM) has announced that it has withdrawn its auctioneering services from Lochmaddy Auction Mart, citing reducing livestock numbers and increasing costs.

Dingwall Auction Mart locator. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Dingwall Auction Mart locator. Picture: James Mackenzie.

In a notice shared on Facebook, the Ross-shire livestock mart said that several factors played a part in the decision, including declining livestock numbers, staffing and increased running costs.

The Lochmaddy mart, which is held in the Isles of North Uist, has been a annual date on the DHM calendar for several years.

The statement from DHM said: "Many factors including but not limited to declining livestock numbers, staffing, increasing running costs and stock being consigned to mainland markets have all contributed to the board of directors making the difficult decision that running sales at Lochmaddy is no longer viable for DHM and therefore are withdrawing our auctioneering services from this centre."

DHM managing director Grant Macpherson said that the decision to withdraw services from Lochmaddy was not taken lightly, citing rising costs of keeping cattle and a drop in livestock numbers as important factors.

Grant Macpherson. Picture: Callum Mackay
Grant Macpherson. Picture: Callum Mackay

He said: "The board of directors of Dingwall and Highland Marts haven’t taken this decision easily. Farming and crofting in the Outer Hebrides has a set of challenges of its own. We have a lot of loyal customers in North Uist and hope to trade with them at our other centres going forward.

"There are a number of factors in declining stock numbers which include the increasing costs of keeping cows. This is exacerbated on our island customers with ferry charges and rising haulage costs to take winter feed on to the Island.

"We have seen an increase in stock being consigned to Mainland markets – a customer’s right – which obviously affects the number of animals been traded in Lochmaddy and makes it increasingly more difficult to attract mainland buyers for reduced numbers.

"Travel is always an issue with many sales affected. Covid did cause lots of issues (unavoidable) and weather is always a factor. With our current staffing levels, we have less experienced staff and a busy sales programme and this means we can’t afford to have these team members stuck on the island.

"Caledonian MacBrayne have an ageing fleet and breakdowns and lack of suitable replacements must be a huge worry to the island communities."

Mr Macpherson confirmed that the firm have no plans to make further cuts to services at other centres.

He added: "We have seen an increase of sheep consigned to Stornoway where we are the preferred operators. We work very closely with Lochaber Trust who own Fort William and have altered our sales over the last number of years to offer a more efficient programme less sales but bigger volume of stock which has helped attract new buyers."

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