9 August 2002

Breeding ewe values put to test

By James Garner

BREEDING ewe sales got under way in earnest at Northampton Auctions summer sheep fair when 7000 head went under the hammer last week.

The sale, which is normally held at Bicester and usually attracts about 20,000 entries, saw about one-third of that number penned. Even so, it was still the seasons first true test of breeding ewe values.

Buyers came from all parts of the country and the trade reflected a high level of interest with the best North Country Mule theaves (gimmers) topping the market at £90, ranging from £85.50. Double-theaves Mule ewes (four-tooths) sold to a best of £88.

But with only 850 Mules on offer, compared with 10,000 at Bicester, the shortage of stock helped force prices way above last years levels. Auctioneer Keith Rose said that having less than 1000 Mules showed they would be hard to come by all year.

"Its the first significant sale and it will certainly be a benchmark of what the trade will be. So I expect prices to remain at similar levels.

"It will be interesting to find out what the numbers will be like for the big sales later in the year. If the ewes are not there, they wont get the numbers."

The main bulk of sheep on offer were 3500 Suffolk cross Mule theaves, the best of which made £84, with prices ranging from £75. Continental-cross theaves traded lower, with prices running from £56 to £79 a head.

Bidders paid between £50 and £61 a head for Suffolk-cross Scotch Halfbred ewe lambs.

Buyers said the early trade was dearer than they hoped, with some being forced to buy to avoid a 20-day standstill later on.

But Northamptonshire Auctions Brian Pile pointed out that the rule also prevented some buyers from attending, because they had other stock which they needed to clear first. &#42