13 August 1999

Early lambers still set pace

EARLY lambers such as Suffolk and Texels continue to set the pace for this seasons breeding sales which could see mainstream breeds such as Mules facing a tough trade.

Last weekends Bicester Sheep Fair met producers expectations for a tighter trade riding on the back of depressed cull ewe and prime lamb trade. Averages were down across the board with Suffolk theaves (first lamb crop) between £45-£65 and Texel and Charollais theaves at £35-£42.

Many faces at the ringside were there to see how trade levelled out. On the same day, buyers at Malton, Yorks saw a similar trade from an area where many flocks are keen to lamb early, but lack the climate to compete with southern flocks.

Michael Harrison of Cundalls at Malton says averages for both breeding sheep and store lambs are down on last year. Suffolk and Texel gimmer shearlings averaged £53 each and £47.50 respectively; Suffolk ewes £24.15 a head and Texels at £23.80.

For those producers looking to buy ewe-lambs to run on-farm for a year before putting to the tup, prices are going to be well down on last year, adds Mr Harrison. While thats good news for buyers, there will need to be a good supply of grazing or ample winter forage to benefit.

Other sections also suffered; draft ewes reflected the cull trade to see entries average £8.30 apiece.

Resigned to the store lamb market, many producers reluctantly sold on lots to a top of £26 a head (averaging £19.50). Bicester faired little better with strong stores selling to a top of £26.50 each and feeding lambs £5 a head behind that.

"Theres still plenty more to come forward," adds Mr Harrison. &#42