27 October 1995

Effects of SAP changes are being felt

By Tim Relf

THE effects of the changes to the Sheep Annual Premium scheme are already being felt in markets, with interest in cull ewes sharpening.

It follows MAFFs recent announcement that, for the 1996 scheme, a single application period will run from Dec 4 to Feb 4, followed by a 100-day retention period ending on May 14.

Although auctioneers say mid-May could herald a flood of cull ewe marketings, limited availability seems likely to keep the trade firm before then.

Could be strong

"Prices at and after Christmas could be strong," says auctioneer Mark Cleverdon at Ashford.

And the resulting increase in demand, as buyers seek cull ewes to graze and sell, has taken prices up £8 a head in recent weeks, he says.

The high store lamb prices are another factor prompting demand around the cull ring, he adds.

Banburys Brian Pile says that cull ewe graziers may take some of the older ewes this year, which, in the past, may have been kept by dairy producers for sale in early May.

At Taunton, too, the effects of the changes on the cull ewe demand has been noted by auctioneer Michael Powell. He says numbers could be short from December onwards. "We were selling 1000 a week in August."

Back at Ashford, meanwhile, anticipation of the changes to the scheme has also given a fillip to trade for the best ewe lambs over the past six or seven weeks, adds Mr Cleverdon.

In demand

"Top quality ewe lambs are in demand because people know these are the ones that will sell best as young breeders next autumn," he says. The first-quality Kent ewes, for example, have been making "unheard of" prices of nearly £58.

In some markets, however, any effect of the changes is harder to discern.

At Worcester, for example, auctioneer Clive Roads points out that most of the breeding sales were over by mid-October – before the announcement of the alterations to the scheme.