By FW reporters

SHEEP farmers are following their beef and pig counterparts into the trough of rock-bottom prices.

The latest collapse is in the value of gimmer and store lambs – the mainstay of many farmers in the hills and uplands.

As sale season kicked off in the north-west last week, Mule gimmer lambs were averaging £42-£43 apiece, down £30 on 12 months ago.

Chairman of the NFUs Welsh Council, Hugh Richards, says “the industrys lifeblood is haemorrhaging”.

His comments come after Welsh Mule yearling ewes averaged £60 at Welshpool last week, down 37% on last year. Not long before, Mountain ewes at a Llanwrst auction made £14, with some pens of small sorts not attracting a single bid.

“Farm accounts will look pretty sad this year,” says Meat and Livestock Commission economist Duncan Sinclair. But he says hill and upland farmers can do nothing about it. “Many dont have the capacity to keep sheep on longer – they have to move them off.”

Depressed finished lamb prices have contributed to the downturn in the gimmer and store trade, says Mr Sinclair. Prime lambs averaged 79p/kg liveweight on Monday – down 29% on a year earlier – reflecting the “glut” of pigmeat on the market and the disrupted skin trade.

 lamb sale
First cattle, then pigs, now sheep… the sectors incomes are plummeting

John Thorley, of the National Sheep Association, calls the situation an “absolute disaster”. And the likely higher ewe premium will only go a little way to compensate.

“This is an ideal year to restock a breeding flock,” says Mr Thorley. “But that is no consolation for people who are sellers.”