Private deals start to shift shearlings
By Jeremy Hunt North-west correspondent
WITH a big question mark hanging over whether auction sales of sheep will be permitted later this autumn, auctioneers say they are encouraged by the first signs of trade for shearling ewes through private deals.
No one is denying the impending log-jam of breeding sheep is causing great concern and its no surprise to hear that many producers have decided to "sit tight" and not venture into the marketplace for replacement stock this autumn.
But despite the marketing and movement difficulties imposed by foot-and-mouth, auctioneers are managing to strike some private deals for shearling ewes that would traditionally have been booked into the mid-summer sheep fairs.
Co-ordinating private sales is not easy, admit midlands and southern-based auctioneers, but providing farmers can be specific on the type of sheep required and the price they are prepared to pay, most feel they can match buyers and sellers, organise flock inspections, and complete the transaction.
Brian Pile of Northampton Auction Mart – auctioneers for Bicester Sheep Fair – has 32,000 sheep on his private sales register, 20,000 of which are shearlings.
"In many cases we are seeing small groups of farmers spending a day looking around a few selected flocks before they make a decision. Farmers are having to take the 21-day rule into account when planning their buying, but we are already seeing sheep moving on to new farms," said Mr Pile, who has negotiated deals for numbers ranging from a few sheep to one order of 600 ewes.
Prices are realistic with Suffolk x Mule shearlings at £45-£52, Suffolk x Scotch Halfbreds at £45-£50 and North of England Mules around £62 apiece.
Generally, sellers are falling into two categories – those keen to sell and those not so keen.
Buyers of running ewe lambs to be sold as maiden shearlings are looking to sell, while sellers of shearlings that have had a lamb crop are prepared to hold onto them for another year if they cant command a decent price.
These vendors are looking for an extra £5-£10 apiece compared with others more determined to sell, but auctioneers reckon these sheep are worth a premium.
Eddie Bullman, of Bucks, has around 1000 two-shear North of England Mule ewes that would normally have been sold at Bicester Fair. He is "fairly confident" hell sell them and would ideally like £60 apiece despite the difficulties.
"We had already switched to buying shearlings to sell as two-shears. Those who buy ewe lambs, and now have dry shearlings to sell, face the problem of how to restock with ewe lambs from clean areas," said Mr Bullman. *
SHEARLING EWE TRADE
• Realistic prices.
• Maiden shearling sellers keen to sell.
• Concerns over ewe lamb sources.