AS we near the end of another year, December is always a time to reflect on what has happened over the last 12 months. Well all I can say is - no-one ever thought we would experience a bizarre year like 2020!! writes Heather Pritchard, Farmer columnist.

January set off like any other time, bang straight back into the variety of the commercial sales with the pedigree in-lamb sales running along side them. Then we moved into the early pedigree beef bulls, namely the British Blue and Limousin sales at the end of January and into mid February. During February we also travelled across the water to Ireland to conduct a major on-farm dispersal sale of 1500 dairy cattle in Donegal.

As we ventured into early March and with the ever popular Borderway UK Dairy Expo taking place, we then hit the Covid-19 and all sales were suspended for a very short period until the operation guidelines from IAAS and the LAA were provided.

To allow the livestock market to operate and to maintain supplying the food chain market, a ‘drop & go’ policy was quickly introduced which permitted livestock to trade and reducing the volume of customers attending the sales. This new method allowed the commercial livestock sector to operate under some form of normality.

However, we were left with the question of how are we going to conduct the forthcoming main Spring Pedigree Sales? Without hesitation the team came up with the idea of holding Online Timed Auctions. This initiative would be something which would evolve the business going forward and is a marketing tool which we have never looked back on. The first sale to take place was the spring Holstein Club bull sale and with the digital form of video’s and photos, the stage was set for the world to witness this form of sale.

The main spring pedigree beef bull sales in May saw all breeds being sold through the new online timed auction system and this platform attracted a new audience which included oversea interest as we saw cattle being sold to France and Ireland.

The month of July was given the green light for the pedigree sales to come back into the live ring sales. Our next challenge was how to structure these events and allow us to maintain the government guidelines of social distancing regulations. We created an additional sale ring within our Exhibition Hall and split the larger numbered sale days into an extra days trading - 'where there is a will, there is a way' comes to mind.

As we moved through August and into September, sheep sales were in full swing throughout all the H&H sales centres. Trade continued to stay strong and quality of stock came to the fore for the buyers to battle over, and they were not disappointed.

The final couple of months in our pedigree sales calendar saw many sheep society in lamb sales which feature some top quality genetic breeding lines. The prices again continued to hold and the clearance throughout was over 90 percent across the rings.

It only leaves me to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all the H&H team.