CULL EWE markets are set for a healthy future, according to the English Beef and Lamb Executive.

Its latest forecast suggests the smaller national flock will restrict cullings to about 1.8m head, 20% down on pre foot-and-mouth levels.

The removal of sheep annual premium will also allow a better spread of animals coming forward, with producers no longer having to hang on to ewes during the retention period.

“Historically, the cull ewe market has been plagued by uncertainty,” said Jane Connor, MLC senior economic analyst.

“Since the foot-and-mouth epidemic, the market has stabilised and strengthened.

“Pre FMD, heavier cull ewes averaged about £27 at auction. Last year this average had risen to over £43/head.”

EBLEX also said demand remains buoyant from the ethnic sector which accounts for up to 85% of cull ewes.