10 July 1998

Ram prices expected to hold firm

By Tim Relf

RAMS will be worth the same, or slightly less, than last summer when the big sales kick off in a few weeks.

That is the verdict of most before trading starts in earnest on Mon, Aug 3, when nearly 700 animals will be on offer at the National Sheep Associations tenth early sale at Builth Wells.

David Bowman, who topped the event last year with a 1200gns Charollais from his Carlisle-based Crookburn flock, expects averages to be down slightly on 1997. "But the same again would do quite nicely," he says.

Recent rises in prime lamb values and the shift of some farmers from cattle to sheep production will buoy up demand, says Mr Bowman. And with breeding sheep making less money, buyers could have a bit more to spend on rams.

Auctioneer Julian Gallimore, who will be selling the Charollais, says: "We had a smashing day last year – and we will be deliriously happy if we can do the same again this time round."

Memories of this seasons hogget trade will temper peoples bidding – but rams are always needed, says Mr Gallimore. "You have to pay what the market demands."

Gwilym Richards, who takes the rostrum in the Suffolk section, reckons bidding will be on a par, or slightly lower, than last year.

Interest could come from dairy farmers who, perhaps facing quota constraints, want to expand their sheep enterprise, says Mr Richards. "There is certainly a better chance of making money out of sheep than beef."

Long, strong tups with good skins and good conformation will again be most sought after, he adds. Performance figures will also help a tups chances of making good money.

Farmer Paul Quick from Zeal Monachorum says: "Trade probably will not hit the highs it has at times in the past."

Mr Quick, who topped the Texel section at the early NSA sale last year at 700gns, said: "But it is not so much about getting the top price, getting a good average is more important."

He is taking 15 rams to the event from Loosebeare Manor, with another 100-plus to be sold through the rest of the season. Some of these will go under the hammer at the NSAs main offering on Sept 21.

That promises to be a big day, too, says NSAs Jane Smith. "It is the twenty-first such sale."

NSA early sale, 1997

Selection of average prices

£/head

Charollais

Yearling rams 386

Ram lambs 281

Suffolk

Non-MVA rams 381

MVA rams 363

MVA ram lambs 281

Texel

Yearling rams 294

Paul Quick will be taking 15 rams to the early sale from Loosebeare Manor, Zeal Monachorum. The event, on Aug 3, is later than usual. "It will give people an extra week to recover from the Royal Welsh," said an NSA spokeswoman.