By Bill Nelson, livestock manager, North West Auctions

Breeding sheep sales are attracting larger numbers this autumn with many buyers being seen around the rings from throughout the country.

A strong trade has been seen throughout the year with sales for older mule and continental ewes being well sought, with Gimmer shearlings that have reared lambs selling to a premium.

North of England Mule gimmer lambs have sold to a strong trade this autumn considering the unstable prime lamb market, with top end lambs ready for breeding holding their price. This is partly due to strong culling of cast ewes driven by the high prices, a lot of underperforming sheep have been removed from flocks.

The gimmer lamb trade also saw running lambs selling to the strongest demand with best sorts of top pens seeing strong demand with plenty of good quality lambs available averaging £4 a head up on the year.

Terminal sire rams have also seen strong trade this autumn at most centres with good quality rams selling to a premium as many shepherds try to breed a better quality of prime lamb. A shortage of Swaledale ewes has lead to a strong trade this autumn.

The dairy trade throughout 2014 has seen positivity and confidence shine through from both vendors and purchasers and the beginning of the year and continue through into the autumn sales despite the recent milk price cuts.

Sales of new calved cows and heifers have seen prices remain firm with the higher end continually selling to in excess of £2,000 with heifers regularly £1,750-1,900.

The recent fall in milk price will see farmers review their production systems, seek to make savings where possible, review business viability. This will inevitably result in herd dispersals throughout the country as production costs rise above the price milk.

Some other businesses will see the purchasing of replacement stock as a more viable option than rearing, while others may switch to sexed semen, using their extra heifers as an income stream.

Store cattle prices have lifted again after a large dip in the beef price when cheaper imported beef affected the market. This has brought more numbers forward to a rise of about £60-£80.

Early signs are that suckled calves are maintaining a high price for growth and quality, with demand being maintained.