4 August 1995

Numbers up & ewe price falls

CULL ewe prices are falling, as continuing dry weather prompts an increase in marketings.

Light ewe values have now fallen to below £20, after having averaged £24 during June.

Numbers overall were steady through May and June, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission. The increase in entries expected at the end of the second retention period for sheep annual premium did not materialise as producers, anticipating a falling trade, delayed selling. But pressure on keep is now encouraging slaughtering.

MLC sample markets were recording entries of about 40,000 in early July; a month earlier the figure had been about 35,000 head.

Melton Mowbrays John Burgin expects to see numbers increase as people "sell to relieve the pressure on grass".

Trade at Melton Mowbray has been fairly level, he says. The best Suffolk cross ewes are currently making up to £31, best Mule ewes to £28. Half-meated Mule ewes are making £18 to £25, and lean ewes are selling in the £12 to £15 range.

So far this year national availability has been above 1994. The MLC puts slaughter levels in the first half of the year at 1.17m (up 16% on 1994).

Prices, however, have been only slightly below those of 1994.

Haig Murray, auctioneer at Longtown, says the hot weather is also having a depressing influence on trade. "We would expect the fall at this time of year," he says.

"We will see big entries through until October and November, and probably wont see any increase in prices until after then."