GOOD QUALITY cull ewes are fetching healthy prices at auction, despite a rise in throughput following the end of Irish and UK retention periods.

With the end of retention in Ireland on Apr 15, buyers have had plenty of choice, but Irish supplies are beginning to wane and traders say heavier ewes are still making about £40 a head.

Auctioneer Andrew Verney, at Hatherleigh Market in Devon, said numbers had increased since the end of the UK retention period on May 14, giving buyers more of an option on quality.

“Lots of Irish ewes and lambs on the market haven‘t helped matters, but the best ewes are still making up to £50 a head.”

He said “half-meat” ewes were still in the low £30s, and the plainest sorts were fetching less.

“Buyers are focusing more on the quality ewes – before [retention] the numbers weren‘t there.”

Craven Cattle Marts‘ Heather Stoney at Skipton, North Yorks, said numbers had increased after retention but not to the level expected.

“Generally, prices are not as high as they were, but there are still people after the bigger, meatier ewes.

“Buyers may have been expecting to pay slightly less as they anticipated greater numbers, but a slight increase in supply is starting to tail off.”