Christmas fatstock sales saw the usual lift heading into December, with quality stock attracting the eyes of the buyer.
Prime cattle trade in general remains under pressure, however, many auctioneers reported that heifers have tended to suit butcher weights at times.
At the Welsh Winter Fair in Builth, a packed ringside ensured strong headline prices and good clearances in the cattle and sheep rings.
Prices peaked at £5,400 for the supreme champion, a Limousin heifer from Mr D Thomas, Dolcoed. She weighed in at 620kg and was purchased by the judge Mr GD Jenkins, Newcastle Emlyn.
Next best and selling for £4,000 was the reserve champion, another Limousin heifer exhibited by Phil and Sharon Sellers, Lincoln. This one weighed 684kg and was purchased by Mr DJ Lloyd, Trefeglwys, Caersws.
A competitive trade in the Baby Beef and YFC sections saw prices top at £3,300 for ‘Magw’ the reserve champion heifer from Berwyn and Elin Hughes, Lampeter.
This one was secured by M Kirby, Holsworthy, Devon.
Auctioneers said more cattle on offer this year combined with more buyers resulted in solid trade, with a clearance rate of 86%.
In the sheep lines prices topped at £1,500 for the supreme champions, a pair of Texel lambs from Sara Gibbons Tregoyd, Brecon. Weighing 48.5kg these were the pick of the judge, Alun Richards, Pumpsaint.
Overall lambs sold to average 223.35ppk and £91/head.
Further north, Skipton’s Christmas Prime Show and Sale saw cattle peak at 570p/kg, realising £3,648 for a 640kg heifer offered from C Cropper and J Mellin, Millhouse Farm, Long Preston.
Fat lambs were led by M and V Brown, Leyburn, for their supreme champion pen, realising £500 a head for three 48kg Beltex lambs. Meanwhile the reserve champion sold for £250 a head for a pen of 38kg lambs. Earlier the Browns achieved a rare double, also claiming supreme and reserve champion lamb carcases.
Auctioneer Ted Ogden said many commercial cattle made 250-289p/kg on the day, with demand strong for bullocks and heifers in the 500-600kg range. However, he urged producers to be wary of selling lambs over fat, suggesting an optimum range of 43-45kgs.
“There are a lot of heavy lambs about at the moment and 46kgs and above will possibly see discounts, while 38-42kgs are a little short of requirements at the moment,” said Mr Ogden. “Vendors need to be aware that to assist buyers they need to belly clip their lambs.”
Northallerton Auctions reported lambs being a “firm trade right through” on Tuesday at their Christmas primestock show, with clean cattle easing slightly on the week. Prime lambs averaged 168p/kg, with the top price pen realising £192 a head for M Allen, Staithes.
Prime cattle heifer and bull champion went to JV and JA Hodgson, Summerhouse, realising 460p/kg at £2683 and 214p/kg at £1532.93 respectively.
“Mostly people were looking for prime cattle in the 480-600kg band with some shape and loin,” market manager and auctioneer Giles Drew told Farmers Weekly. “The average price for lambs was very similar on the week, with smaller lambs up a little on account of lower numbers.”
A packed ringside at Kirkby Stephen’s annual Christmas show and sale of store calves, saw a Belgian Blue steer, champion on the day, top trade at £1255 from Messrs Tiplady, Littlebeck, Richmond. This was bought by Messrs Webster, Ormskirk. Leading heifer, a Limousin also from Littlebeck, managed £1,135.
A total of 166 stores, slightly back on the year, averaged £964, with a lot of younger cattle, mostly ranging from seven to 14 months.
“Prices were higher than expected given where prime cattle returns are at and good heifers are particularly good to sell,” said Kirkby Stephen livestock manager Mark Richardson who said quality had dropped slightly but stock were “every bit as dear”.
“Trade was on par with last year and back slightly on earlier sales in 2016. We’ve been averaging around £1000 for stores, so this week is back slightly. Cast cattle trade was also good, especially for the show cows but plainer stuff has been cheaper.”