17 May 2002

No ewe & lamb surge expected

AUCTION marts are not expecting a surge of ewes and lambs even though DEFRA has changed the rules allowing store and breeding sheep sales to take place.

Foot-and-mouth compensation, an exceptional flush of spring grass and a shortage of animals to graze it, has contributed to a fierce demand for private sales of ewes with lambs at foot, with some outfits making up to £45 a life.

Although this weeks prime hogget price fell unexpectedly by at least 10p/kg in many markets, and returns for new season lamb have been uninspiring at £50-55 a head, breeding sheep trade is likely to remain strong, says the trade.

Auctioneers say while the new rules should encourage more buyers, supplies are unlikely to change.

Skipton auction mart in North Yorks stages its first sale of ewes and lambs, about 500 maiden hoggs and 450 ewes and lambs, next Tuesday (May 21). Auctioneer Jeremy Eaton says private trades for ewes and twin lambs in recent weeks have realised up to £120.

"Three years ago we saw up to £110 for ewes and couples so its not so out of line considering restocking needs and grass availability. We have sold some two, three and four-year-old ewes with twins at £85-97 recently, but there are still a lot of farmers chasing a limited supply." &#42

Auction marts are not expecting a surge of ewes with lambs at foot even though breeding sales can now take place.