Carrs Billington Agriculture has confirmed its acquisition of Mortimer Feeds, the Macclesfield-based ruminant feed merchant business, as its parent group reports a recovery in its UK agriculture operations.

Mortimer Feeds, first established in 1987 as Balanced Feeds, is mainly focussed on the Cheshire trading area, with business in Shropshire, Derbyshire and North Wales.  It retails ruminant compound feeds and blends made to its own formulations alongside minerals, grass seed, silage additives and bucket lick products. Carr’s was a supplier to the company.

“The acquisition adds incremental feed volume and converts some existing merchant business into direct sales, and is in line with our stated strategy of strengthening our presence in our current geographies and leading in dairy nutrition,” states CBA.

Meanwhile, a trading update from CBA parent the Carr’s Group ahead of its year-end in early September, notes that the recovery in UK agriculture continues, and is expected to steadily improve. “All aspects of the business performed well. Feed volumes and like-for-like retail sales are running ahead of the prior year, while machinery revenues are significantly ahead of the prior year.”

The Group adds that feed block sales in the UK remain in line with expectations, with volume growth during the main selling season. But its US feed block business had a “disappointing” year as  “significantly lower cattle prices” affected feed block sales volumes in that market. “The recovery of the USA market continues as anticipated and trading remains in line with our expectations,” it says.

Overall, the Group expects the recovery in UK agriculture to steadily continue, with “early positive indications” of a revival in the US feed block market as cattle prices gradually recover.

“It is pleasing to see UK agriculture continuing to improve, buoyed by the improvement in farmgate milk prices,” says Carrs’ Group chief executive Tim Davies. “With green shoots of recovery in the US market, we are confident of the medium term prospects within our agriculture division.”

At the half year stage, Carr’s Agriculture division reported a pre-tax profit of £7.23 million on sales of £160.5m in the six months to March 4th 2017, compared to £6.95m and £139.32m in the same period of 2016.

The UK feed business had returned 11% volume growth in the period against a national feed market that was 1-2% down. The company’s UK feedblock sales grew by 6%, but US volumes dropped by 10%. Earlier this year, Carr’s acquired the Horse & Pet Warehouse retail business in Ayr for its retail chain, and it has since announced plans to build a new blends plant near Stone in Staffordshire.