By Nick Hyne
Auctioneer at Shrewsbury Auction Centre, Shropshire

It has been an interesting breeding sheep season here on the Welsh borders where we traditionally start our sales in mid-July to accommodate anyone wanting to buy early lambing ewes.
Overall, we’ve seen a better than expected trade throughout the season as a result of the strong cull ewe trade; the good early price of spring lamb; good lambing and growing season; and the fall in the price of beef which has encouraged farmers to buy more ewes.
We expected the early trade to be quite good as there has been generally a decent trade for the early spring lambs.
Our first sale indeed attracted a slightly larger entry of sheep than normal, with just under 800 selling to a top of £148 for Suffolk-cross Welsh Mule yearling ewes. There were a large number of prospective buyers “having a look “at the trade on this day. Purchasers must have liked what they saw as at the next sale, a fortnight later, saw keener bidding at around £140-150 a head albeit for better quality ewes and there was solid demand for three and four-year-old ewes, which made around £110-125 a head.
Throughout August and early September trade remained level, with plenty of buyers present. In fact the drop in the price of finished lamb seemed to have little effect at breeding sales.
Early September saw our first annual multi-breed sale at Bishops Castle, consisting of nearly 6,000 sheep. Again, a good number of buyers ensured demand remained competitive and Welsh Mule ewes sold over £100 a head for fewer forward as a result of strong cull values.
A large number of yearlings sold to a top of £160, for Texels, Suffolks and Welsh Mules. Again, any decent strong runs of ewes sold for £140-150 a head.
But there was a noticeable shift in the number of traditional mule purchasers with buyers swaying towards buying Suffolk and Texel yearling ewes this year.
This could be due to these producing a more saleable lamb each year and also retaining a higher cull value.
The entry of 1,000-plus ewe lambs, which was mostly made up of Suffolks and Texels, sold to a very strong trade, with plenty of buyers looking to run them round empty and sell as yearlings next year. Quite a few pens sold to above £100, and considering these ewe lambs have been drawn from commercial flocks and would potentially only be sold as finished lambs, vendors were pleased with the overall average of £84 a head.

* Trade Talk, in association with the Livestock Auctioneers Association, brings you a weekly round-up of ringside trade from auctioneers across the country