14 September 2001

Rams slow as buyers bide time…

By James Garner

RAM SALES have been slow for many sheep breeders this year with most purchasers biding time before committing, while others have decided to make do with the tups they have.

This might leave some flocks short of ram power, but the difficulty of moving animals under license has put many buyers off.

This is despite auctioneers and breed societies trying to sell stock via stock registers.

Now it has reached crunch time for many flocks as the main tupping period of October and November approaches fast.

Lesley Stubbings, an independent sheep consultant, says ram sales are well behind, but that a lot of stock movements could take place in the next few weeks.

"Some buyers havent got their female replacements sorted out yet, so they arent sure how many tups they need and then theres the 21-day standstill to consider."

The inconvenience of having a block on movements for three weeks might prevent purchases until the last minute, she suggests.

The National Sheep Associations UK-wide ram sale register had a slow start too, but enquiries have been hotting up in past weeks.

Jane Smith is the organisations ram sale secretary. "Since the beginning of September we have been absolutely inundated with calls. Many buyers seem to have put off a decision until the last minute."

Steven McLean, head of the Texel sheep society, says: "Theres been a lot of enquiries and local sourcing, and prices are not far off last years. But we are concerned with how many shearling rams are still left to sell."

He says that multi-breed initiatives like sheepfinder.com are taking off. "The numbers of stock on it is building nicely."

Other initiatives, such as video auctions have been reasonably successful, but can be costly.

The Eastern region NSA has decided to organise a self-help video package for its vendors. They film their stock themselves, devoting a few minutes to each animal, and then send the footage to Melton Mowbray market.

Then it will be compiled into a video showing potential buyers what rams are available throughout the region.

John Maxwell, NSA Eastern region ram sale chairman, has been behind the project. "I hope the video will be similar to a buyers first look around a sale yard to see who has what to offer. Hopefully, something will catch their eye."

He has been surprised by the variation of ram sales in the region from Kent to Yorkshire. "I have been monitoring it since August and it is clear that some breeders have sold better than normal.

"Others, due to location and the ban on livestock markets, havent sold any. A large number of us thought there would be markets this autumn.

"We havent got any Steven Spielbergs, but theres plenty of good tups left well worthy of a buyers attention."

Contact Melton Mowbray market on 01664-562971. &#42

TUPSALES

&#8226 Sales slow.

&#8226 Buyers time running out.

&#8226 Variation of sales nation-wide.