7 July 1995

No floodgates open, so cull ewes are flat

By Tim Relf

WITH the widely expected rush of marketings at the end of the second retention period for sheep annual premium having failed to materialise, cull ewes are now meeting a variable trade.

"The floodgates didnt open as everyone thought they would," says auctioneer Alwyn Jones at St Asaph, where last week trade for the 600-plus head averaged £25.95.

And it has been a similar situation at Rye, where last week prices levelled at £26.80. There was no big increase in numbers after the end of May, says auctioneer Mark Cleverdon. "In fact, we havent had a particularly strong show for five or six weeks," he reckons. "People have been busy hay-making and shearing."

But continuing dry weather could prompt more cullings, suggests Mr Cleverdon. "People are bound to give more room to lambs at the expense of ewes and this wont help the price situation," he says. But, overall, he expects fairly static prices. "Compared with last year trade is about £3 or £4 down."

And trade is also described as "flat" by John Burgin, auctioneer at Melton Mowbray. "There is unlikely to be much change over the next couple of months," he adds.

Any ewes which are over-fat are particularly difficult to shift, he says. "This hot weather and over-fat meat do not go together."

Similarly at Exeter, where trade fell £2 to average £25 last week, Alan Venner has seen the second-quality and fatter ewes "take a knock" in values.

With breeding ewe prices down about £10 on last year at Exeter, he points out this is a good time to cull and make replacements.

And this is a sentiment with which Michael Powell at Taunton agrees. He saw prices fall just before, rather than just after, the end of the second retention period.

"Buyers anticipated higher numbers and falling prices and stayed away for a week or so. And this, rather than any particular rise in entries, contributed to the fall-off in trade.

"But prices have come back now," he adds. "Numbers and values will probably now stay about constant." &#42