21 January 2000

In-lamb ewes in firm demand

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

Thats the reason Taunton markets Robert Vennor puts to the surge in inquiries from as far away as Scotland. "Demand has been sharper, firmer and a fortnight earlier than other years.

"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 past 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. We started with smaller Dorset ewes, but are now into Suffolk and Half-bred with more four or six tooth sorts," explains Mr Vennor. 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, reports auctioneer Peter Farnsworth. As with other centres, more numbers are needed to meet demand.

Producers confidence has been buoyed up with the steady rise in lamb prices over the last 12 months which sees the SQQ holding at over 86p/kg (Tues). Cull ewe values have also recovered with heavier sorts at £21.57/head, according to MLC figures.

"Producers feel bullish about the lamb trades prospects," adds Hugh Evans from Carmarthen.