Joe Bowman on two-tier trade.
As I write, sheep farmers are turning their attention towards lambing time.
Reports are that scan results have been varied, with most being significantly reduced on last years crop.
This, of course, will have a knock-on effect across the breeding sheep sector, with store lamb and prime lamb numbers likely to be reduced next season.
Poor scanning numbers have been most apparent in the south of England, specifically in areas where farms are still recovering from last years drought, with some results being described as catastrophic.
In recent weeks, it has been a pleasure to sell in-lamb sheep, and here at Borderway we have seen improved numbers on the year.
We recently held a dispersal sale on behalf of Robin Slade from Hereford, and the 135 Dutch texel ewes which went under the hammer sold to average £248, topping at £400.
We have experienced a two-tier trade, with good ewes selling very easily and the leaner, aged ewes harder to place.
In-lamb Mule ewes have enjoyed a particularly buoyant trade, with two shears carrying triplets selling for between £150 and £160/head.
Early sales of ewes with lambs at foot have met a better trade than expected.
At Carlisle, we have seen different breeds coming forward and getting a fantastic trade in return.
A personal highlight was selling some Dorset shearlings with Dorper lambs certainly something you do not see every day and met a fantastic trade at £102 a life.
This bodes well as we move into the main ewe and lamb sales season and I believe sellers should be optimistic.
Fingers are crossed for a good start to main crop lambing and for some kind weather, as this will ensure lambs thrive and get the start they require.
With customers looking to maintain flock numbers after less than favourable scanning, demand should contribute to a positive trade.
So, if spring is favourable and the present-day price of store cattle remains at the current high levels, ewes and lambs may look like a good alternative to convert grass against the significant investment required to secure grazing cattle.
Cull ewe values have remained positive and, as is often the trend, we could see a price rise as we head towards the end of Marchs Muslim Ramadan festival.
The prime hogg trade has been challenging for the big feeders and, although the best export type sheep have continued to sell well, heavier and more commercial hoggs have been a disappointing trade on the back of strong store lamb prices.
With spring very much in the air (despite the snow), it will not be long until we see the start of the early spring lambs at Borderway.
The current beef prices look set for the long term and with fewer sheep nationally, our own home-grown produce must carry a price tag that allows producers to continue to grow as a business, while ensuring the general public has a healthy, local, and quality product to depend upon.
Joe Bowman is an auctioneer for Harrison and Hetherington. Call 07736 883 670, or email [email protected]