Norwich Livestock Market says it is confident of continuing its success after recording a rising number of cattle sales last year - despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The fortnightly auction on Hall Road has echoed the findings of a national report, which says the last 12 months have proved the value of a thriving live auction system in driving turnover and setting strong prices.

Annual throughput figures released by the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association (LAA), showed more than 11 million animals sold through live sales rings in England and Wales in 2020 - including almost 10 million sheep and more than one million cattle - with total turnover rising by over £260m to £1.8bn.

The figures represent an increase in almost every sector as farmers turn to the livestock market to achieve best prices for their stock - despite the challenges of Covid-19, and a drop in production numbers in some categories.

The LAA said the "phenomenal" national figures should be off-set against the considerable increase in staffing and operational costs to manage biosecure sales environments and meet stringent extra Covid-19 protocols to keep markets open for business.

At Norwich Livestock Market, chairman Stephen Lutkin said 7,045 head of cattle were sold in the year ending October 31, 2020 - an increase on the 6,451 sold in the previous 12 months. Meanwhile sheep sales of 16,581 were slightly down from the 16,904 sold the previous year.

But he said the growth figures would have been much higher if not for the three sales lost when the market temporarily closed during the initial coronavirus lockdown last spring, before re-opening with a new Covid-safe biosecurity regime.

"We were still 500 cattle up even though we missed three sales, so things are going great," he said. "In 2017, we were only doing 5,600 head of cattle, so it shows we are going in the right direction.

"I think one reason is that Newark market closed, so that helped us, but being TB4 (the low-risk area for bovine tuberculosis) is also one of our biggest assets. We only sell TB4 cattle.

"It has been a challenging year, but I don't see why it [the sales growth] should not continue."