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Miserable time for Welsh uplands sheep

By Robert Davies

SEPTEMBER has turned black for Welsh upland flockmasters selling draft ewes, and for specialist breeding ewe producers.

At some centres, returns plummeted on aged hardy ewes still capable of producing several more lamb crops under kinder lowland conditions. At Llanwrst in Gwynedd, Welsh Mountain ewes averaged £14 a head, compared with £30 last year. Some pens of small extreme mountain-type ewes did not attract a bid.

Similar falls were recorded at many draft ewe sales. Auctioneers described the trade as a disaster for farmers, whose returns from pure-bred lamb sales had slumped because of the impact of the strong Pound on exports to southern Europe.

The organisers of the leading sales of prolific crossbred ewes anticipated a price fall. The scale surprised them. The first Welsh Half-bred auction set the pattern when yearlings and ewe lambs were £20 and £22 a head down respectively at Ruthin. At the following Builth Wells sale the falls were £32 and £18.38 a head.

When the first autumn sale of Welsh Mule yearlings was held at Welshpool, there was again a good clearance, but the price crashed to £60.39 a head, two-thirds of the 1997 average. The next day 11,300 ewe lambs averaged £41.43, a fall of 38.5 percent on the year. Mule yearlings levelled at £54 a head at Ruthin, or £26.70 down on last year, and ewe lambs were £28 cheaper at £54.

  • Breeding sheep have continued to make at least 30% less than last year in Scotland, reports Allan Wright. At St Boswells, 1700 half bred gimmers averaged £74 compared with £111 last year.

    At Castle Douglas, the second annual sale of Mule ewe lambs saw 9000 lambs average £31, down £26 on the year. At Stirling, Mule ewe lambs dropped £27 to £33.

    At Newton Stewart, 2700 correct Blackface ewes averaged £24, down £29 on the year and the same class of ewes averaged £16 at Ayr, down a massive £32 on the year.

    Blackface store lambs at Dingwall fell £14 on the year, the drop equal to the 1998 average. But at Dalmally last Saturday, Blackface lambs firmed by £1 on the week.

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    Miserable time for Welsh uplands sheep

    25 September 1998

    Miserable time for Welsh uplands sheep

    By Robert Davies

    SEPTEMBER has turned black for Welsh upland flockmasters selling draft ewes, and for specialist breeding ewe producers.

    At some centres, returns plummeted on aged hardy ewes still capable of producing several more lamb crops under kinder lowland conditions. At Llanwrst in Gwynedd, Welsh Mountain ewes averaged £14 a head compared with £30 last year. Some pens of small extreme mountain type ewes did not attract a bid.

    Similar falls were recorded at many draft ewe sales. Auctioneers described the trade as a disaster for farmers, whose returns from purebred lamb sales had slumped because of the impact of the strong £ on exports to southern Europe.

    The organisers of the leading sales of prolific crossbred ewes anticipated a price fall. The scale surprised them. The first Welsh Half-bred auction set the pattern when yearlings and ewe lambs were £20 and £22 a head down respectively at Ruthin. At the following Builth Wells sale the falls were £32 and £18.38 a head.

    A disappointed breed association spokeswoman said clearances of 90% and 98% showed there was strong demand for high quality sheep, but prices reflected the weak prime lamb trade and the total collapse of cull ewe prices.

    When the first autumn sale of Welsh Mule yearlings was held at Welshpool, there was again a good clearance, but the price crashed to £60.39 a head, two-thirds of the 1997 average. The next day 11,300 ewe lambs averaged £41.43, a fall of 38.5% on the year. Mule yearlings levelled at £54 a head at Ruthin, or £26.70 down on last year, and ewe lambs were £28 cheaper at £54.

    When Clee, Tompkinson & Francis put Speckled Face ewes under the hammer in Carmarthenshire yearlings averaged £45.05, a fall of £31.41 a head. Two-year-olds dipped £24.18 to £36.67, and three-year-olds were 58% down on 1977 at £24.37. But the biggest price drops were for mixed three and four-year-olds, which sold for £19.20 compared with £51.19 a head, and for broken-mouthed ewes that were worth 35% of their 1997 value.

    With so many unsold 1997 born crossbred ewe lambs retained for breeding on prime lamb producing units when the price fell, and the general fall in price of young ewes, it has been almost impossible to get a reasonable return on older lowland ewes for breeding. Many breeders have seen their still sound ewes knocked down for a little as £2 a head for killing.

    lBreeding sheep have continued to make at least 30% less than last year in Scotland, reports Allan Wright. At St Boswells, 1700 half bred gimmers averaged £74 compared with £111 last year.

    At Castle Douglas, the second annual sale of Mule ewe lambs saw 9000 lambs average £31, down £26 on the year. At Stirling, Mule ewe lambs dropped £27 to £33. At Newton Stewart, 2700 correct Blackface ewes averaged £24, down £29 on the year and the same class of ewes averaged £16 at Ayr, down a massive £32 on the year.

    Blackface store lambs at Dingwall fell £14 on the year, the drop equal to the 1998 average. But at Dalmally last Saturday, Blackface lambs firmed by £1 on the week. &#42

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