23 February 1996

Ewe trade still fierce as ever

NO let-up in the fierce trade for ewes with lambs at foot has been seen, despite the increasing numbers passing through markets.

"The dearest we have ever had," is how auctioneer Chris Voyce describes trade at Gloucester last week. There, the highest price was £52 a life.

The age of the ewe is not too important, as long as they are strong sorts, he says.

But with ewe numbers now likely to rise to an end of March peak of about 800 head, prices are unlikely to go up much further, suggests Mr Voyce.

The sheepmeat market has to remain very buoyant for prices over £50 a life to leave room for profit, suggests auctioneer Brian Pile at Banbury.

It will be another few weeks before ewes with lambs are sold in any number at Banbury. "By that time, most could be trading in the £30 to £40 a life range," says Mr Pile.

And even then, there wont be particularly big entries because a lot will be "locked up" in the sheep annual premium scheme retention period.

"Quota got so cheap at the end of the trading period that a large number of people decided to lease it," he says. &#42