Sheep farmers should market cull ewes in the first six months of the year to take advantage of higher seasonal prices, says the English Beef and Lamb Executive.

Despite more ewes being sold in spring 2005 following the removal of retention periods, average weekly liveweight prices were still £4/head higher in the first six months than later in the year.

Coupled with this, peak prices of £39 a head in May 2005 were more than 75% higher than the 22 a head average paid in October.

On this basis, farmers should aim to finish and market cull ewes in spring and early summer to maximise price opportunities while maintaining flock health, according to Meat and Livestock Commission sheep scientist Liz Genever.

“Farmers can identify barren ewes for early marketing through pregnancy scanning and finish only healthy ewes offering good opportunities to improve condition.

Well-finished ewes at 2-3L fat levels will meet processors’ mutton specification.”