By Simon Wragg

EWE and lamb couples are gaining in numbers and value as more buyers look to maintain numbers without the hard sweat of lambing flocks.

Thats the reason Taunton markets Robert Vennor puts to the surge in enquiries from producers as far away as Scotland in the couples trade.

“Demand has been sharper, firmer and a fortnight earlier than other years,” he says.

“I think some of it has got to do with an ageing farming population who have maybe sold their breeding ewes and – having had the hard work of lambing done for them – want to get stock numbers back.

The last three weeks have seen entries grow to over 170 couples and double couples (those with twin lambs).

At the same time values have risen steadily from £15-20/life to last Saturdays £30/life.

“Much of the change has been reflected in the quality of ewes coming forward,” explains Mr Vennor.

“We started with smaller Dorset ewes, but are now into Suffolk and Half-bred with more four or six tooth sorts.”

Many agree, adding a kinder winter has left many ewes in better condition than in recent years.

At Exeter, the weekly entry saw couples firm up with a top of £86 for a double couple (equivalent to £29/life) with an overall average of £51/couple.

As with other centres, more numbers are needed to meet demand, reports auctioneer Peter Farnsworth.

Producers confidence has been buoyed up with the steady price rise over the last 12 months which saw the SQQ holding at over 86p/kg on Tuesday (18 Jan).

Cull ewe values have also recovered with heavier sorts at £21.57/head, according to figures from the Meat and Livestock Commission.

Hugh Evans from Carmarthen concluded: “Producers feel bullish about the lamb trades prospects.”