19 June 1998

Cull ewes down £10 on 1997

CULL ewes are typically making £25 at market, down about £10 on a year ago.

At Longtown, Cumbria, auctioneer Haig Murray saw averages of £24 for light ewes and £32 for heavies last Thursday.

"They are no problem to sell," he says, despite the higher than expected entries seen recently. Last Thursdays 6256-strong entry, for example, marked one of the highest ever for the time of year, with Irish animals boosting numbers.

"The only thing that can kill the ewe trade is the warmer weather – and there has been none of that," says Mr Murray.

At Taunton, last Saturdays average was £27. "We are struggling to get over £40," says auctioneer Michael Powell.

One of the main reasons for the year-on-year drop in trade is the less abundant grass supplies. "People had more grass than they knew what to do with last year," he says.

Hereford auctioneer Richard Hyde says the lower prices will prompt farmers to hang on to ewes for longer.

"People will go back to the more traditional time of drafting out in the autumn."

It is a far cry from 1997, when the prospect of higher prices was a temptation that some farmers just could not resist. "As fast as they could be weaned, they were in the market and sold." &#42