23 January 1998

No sense in holding barren sheep

SHEEP producers pregnancy scanning flocks are advised to sell barren ewes or culls now – within sheep annual premium constraints – rather than retaining them in the hope of better prices.

Trade has been severely affected by new specified risk material (SRM) legislation introduced on Jan 1, with some buyers now ceasing to purchase cull ewes.

According to MLC senior economist Duncan Sinclair, this means carcasses must be split. This has added processing costs, as well as affecting traditional markets.

He suggests that price may improve slightly, but warns that legislation is unlikely to change. "Sheep showing permanent incisors will be subject to SRM regulations whenever they are sold."

Stuart Ashworth, economist at SAC Auchincruive, says the March seasonal peak is likely to be about £4 more than the December average of about £27/ewe. "Grazing keep may cost about 50p/head/week – peak prices may not cover this."

But current prices are more in line with average cull ewe values, after a couple of strong years, he says. &#42