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Cattle Mart in South Wales - A Factual Report

Updated on September 9, 2016

The wide, brave, grey haired man in in faded blue overalls and perched flat cap slams open the double gates of the holding pen. An oval sticker thwacked on its backside; for the 270th time today an animal enters the auction ring, this time a large almost all black one-year-old Friesian bullock swaggers in. The animal stands and eyes the large man who wags his stick and gets the animal moving around the ring.

The auctioneer, from his raised platform, announces the animal and once again begins his gabble with his gavel in one hand.

My uncle cocks his head left and informs me that for his age, the animal is a fine specimen as we sit in the raised seating.

The auctioneer knows who to look to first; the dealers stand closet to the ring shoulder to shoulder, interspersed with local farmers and landowners.

They're easy to spot, they look more like businessmen than farmers and if you look closer, they are the ones whose idiosyncratic finger-twitching and head-nodding dominate the bidding.

My uncle has told me about this before, the signals aren't just for the auctioneer; they're for each other.

The bidding dries up all of a sudden. Not for the first time today, the price is low. General chatter quietly sweeps over the crowd as it so often does in farming communities, the dealers watch intently.

The auctioneer leans back in his chair. A young farmer stoops forward and talks to the auctioneer. The farmer's head shakes; the auctioneer rocks forward back to the microphone and coughs the audience back to attention.

The young farmer, as on display as his animal, searches the eyes of the crowd as the auctioneer asks for a better price, the price is raised £25 and nothing more.

The auctioneer cranes around again and the price is solemnly accepted. The bullock and farmer exit with a crash of gates and gavel.

I look to my right but my uncle is making his way to the stand as another bullock swaggers in, this time it's one of his.


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