26 May 1995

Fears of drop for cull ewes

PRICES of cull ewes could drop after May 31, when an end to the second retention period for sheep annual premium looks set to prompt higher marketings.

"The fall could be £5/head," says auctioneer Ryan Stockbridge at Welshpool. He saw trade average £24.50 on Monday, with the export ewes selling particularly well. "The fatter the animal, the more the price will drop," he adds.

And at Abergele, auctioneer Wyn Morton is also expecting to see a flush of ewes after the end of the month. "Hopefully it will be the lighter sorts – the ones which we can sell well," he says.

Auctioneers suggest that after any fall in values due to the rise in numbers, trade will settle and remain relatively steady throughout the summer. "Tick along," as Alan Venner at Exeter says.

At Melton Mowbray, however, where prices have been averaging about £33, auctioneer John Burgin is less convinced that numbers will increase.

Unlike many markets, Melton did not experience the drop in values following the end of the first retention period (Mar 25).

"Prices have been fairly stable for about three months," says Mr Burgin. The end of the second retention period comes after a time when, nationally, slaughterings have been high. The MLC estimates killings during the first quarter of this year to be up 20% on the same period during 1994.

Prices, meanwhile have been similar to those of a year ago. Light ewes in April, for example, averaged £28.77. One year before, the figure was £30.36.

A strong export demand, prompted by favourable exchange rates, and a firm home demand, have helped to keep prices firm.

The pattern of higher marketings continued into April and May. But the second half of the year is likely to see lower slaughterings, taking the annual kill to 1.9m head. Last year, it was 2.2m. &#42