CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

The decline of livestock auctions

PUBLISHED: 10:24 05 October 2015 | UPDATED: 10:24 05 October 2015

Cotswold sheep

Cotswold sheep


Adam Henson discusses the decline of livestock auctions and the one event left in Gloucestershire that still harks back to the good old days of the livestock markets

The world of the livestock auction can be a bewildering and mysterious experience if you’ve never been to one. It’s a place of nods and winks, people speaking in code and the sales themselves seem impossible to follow. But spend a little time in that unique atmosphere and before long the mists begin the clear.

Just like every profession, farming has its own technical terms and conventions while the men and women at market will be using verbal short cuts to hurry things along. I’ve been going to auctions since I was little, taken along by my Dad at first and then later as a farmer in my own right. They are exciting places full of interesting characters.

At one time there would hardly have been a major town in the Cotswolds region that didn’t have its own livestock market. Today it’s hard to imagine cattle, sheep and pigs being herded through town centre streets or rounded up and penned at local railway stations. But that was the reality for generations. Sadly the country markets slowly declined from about the time of the Second World War, when towns like Newent lost their regular sales. But it’s really been in the last twenty years that large animal auction sites have closed in significant numbers.

Banbury was once Western Europe’s biggest cattle market but it sold its last animal in 1998. Gloucester Market never re-opened after the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in 2001 and it wasn’t long before town centre markets in Tetbury, Cirencester and Andoversford shut their gates for the final time. What used to be a weekly event and a social gathering for farming families has been revolutionised by new technology, internet trading and the emergence of larger regional auction centres near major roads and motorways.

But every year there’s one event in the Cotswolds which harks back to the old days and recreates something of that lost community spirit. The Breeds of Gloucestershire sale at the new Cirencester Livestock Centre beside the A419 has become an annual highlight for everyone who appreciates those three very special breeds; Gloucester cattle, Cotswold sheep and Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs. In fact the day is so unusual that it even attracts spectators with no farming connections at all. It has put the spotlight on Britain’s vast livestock varieties so much that in the last few years it has expanded to become a Rare, Native and Traditional Breeds Show and Sale. This year there were even a couple of yaks for sale!

The Cotswold Farm Park has always been a keen supporter of the event and we took a selection of good quality goats, cattle and sheep which created a lot of interest. As the auction has become such a crowd-puller it’s also the venue for the annual shows of the Cotswold Sheep Society and The Gloucestershire Old Spot Pig Breeders’ Club.

All credit must go to the auctioneers, Voyce Pullin, who run the livestock centre near Cirencester. There is no commercial need to hold the rare breeds sale and in the past they have admitted that they don’t do it for financial profit. But Chris Voyce and Jon Pullin know the importance of staging this unique event and what a boost it gives to the thousands of people who keep, breed and promote our native livestock. Importantly it also brings members of the public to a place they would never normally visit. That’s vital in letting non-farming families know a little about how British agriculture works and it goes some way to breaking down the barriers between our rural and urban communities.

The spectators this year might have had trouble keeping up with the bidding but I guarantee they had a day they will never forget.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

Mon, 13:15

Tracy Spiers takes an impressive, if hypothetical, budget on a shopping spree in Cheltenham’s independent stores

Read more
Mon, 12:23

Get out and enjoy seasonal celebrations with a Cotswold twist

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hundreds of participating National Lottery-funded visitor attractions across the UK are saying ‘thanks’ to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket, including a number of venues in the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

“We’re looking forward to lots of festive fun this Christmas festival and hope to welcome lots of people to our town.”

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

“Faringdon upholds old-fashioned values through its traditional shops, personal service and shop owners who go the extra mile to make their customers feel at home.”

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, November 19, 2018

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search