Meat boom fuels prices for best genes

By Charlie Cooper

This Blackface lamb fetched $175,820 at auction in Scotland. Photo / AP
This Blackface lamb fetched $175,820 at auction in Scotland. Photo / AP

When Vexour Garth, a one-tonne British bull, strode into the ring at the Stirling Bull Sale last week, British beef farmers held their breath for one of the biggest sales of the year.

They weren't disappointed. The 19-month-old Charolais sold for £105,000 ($205,000) - a world record for the breed and a price that puts him on a par with a new Porsche 911.

A boom in the global demand for meat has led to a swell of confidence among livestock farmers, fuelling a steady increase in the sums breeders are willing to spend on top quality sires from which to breed the next generation. Vexour Garth was bought by a private company in the US, which has effectively purchased the right to sell his genetic material all over the world.

Sheep prices are also breaking records. Two weeks ago, a blackface lamb sold for £90,000 at an auction in Perthshire. Another lamb from the same bloodline sold for £60,000. Even sheepdogs are being sold at unprecedented prices. Last week, Marchup Midge, the pup of a former World Sheepdog Trials champion, fetched a record £8400.

"Getting access to top quality genetics is something cattle farmers are willing to invest in," said Alasdair Houston, British Charolais Cattle Society chairman. "I understand the plan is for Vexour Garth to stay in the UK and have semen taken for export. That animal shows that there is real confidence in the traditional British cattle breeds and genetic qualities."

China and Brazil are increasing meat consumption, leading to a surge in worldwide demand.

"Livestock price records don't tumble particularly often," said Christopher Dodds, of the Livestock Auctioneers Association. "There is a demand for red meat in the wider world like there hasn't been before."

Beast buys: record prices

The Perthshire lamb

$175,820 - world record price paid for a Blackface lamb in Scotland two weeks ago. The 12-month-old lamb - offspring of a $58,600 Aitkenhead ram and a $54,700 Midlock ewe - was sold on October 16 by Ian Hunter, from Muthill, Perthshire, at Dalmally in Argyll and Bute. Its twin was sold for $117,000 at the same sale.

Red Tibetan mastiff

Name: Hong Dong (2011)
Price: $1.8 million
Age: 11 months
Sold by: Lu Liang
Sold to: Multimillionaire coal baron

Racehorse

Name: Green Monkey (2006)
Price: $31 million
Age: 2 years
Sold by: Randy Hartley/Dean De Renzo
Sold to: John Magnier, stud owner

Limousin bull

Name: Fabio (2012)
Price: $246,000
Age: 17 months
Sold by: Glyn Vaughan
Sold to: Alan Jenkinson, Cumbria.

- Independent

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