17 January 1996

Record cull ewe values: £100 topped

By Tim Relf

CULL ewes have been making record prices, as the buoyant sheepmeat demand continues.

With only limited export movement, domestic interest is underpinning prices. The onset of the religious festival of Ramadan is a factor. And the switch by manufacturers from beef to sheepmeat, which gave the cull trade such a boost in late March, continues to support values.

On Monday, light and heavy ewes averaged £43 and £56 nationally.

And auctioneers are reporting the £100-mark being topped. "I cant remember the last time that happened," says auctioneer Brian Pile at Banbury, Oxon.

Most fit, but not over-fat, Suffolk and Mule ewes are making £80-plus, he points out. But the very lean sorts, changing hands for between £40 and £45, look the dearest in pence a kg.

Some demand continues from graziers. "People are selling culls and, if they have any grass left, may be re-investing in a few more," says Mr Pile.

And, though cold weather may limit stock performance, some people are predicting that supplies could tighten in the run-up to the end of the retention period onMay 15.

People keeping culls specifically to sell if supplies go tight will be dealers or graziers, rather than traditional flockmasters, who probably have only a few spare in excess of their quota.

Quota allocation

But Ryan Stockbridge at Welshpool is not so sure. He reckons farmers are keeping more than their quota allocation, allowing them to buy and sell – and play the market.

The strong trade, meanwhile, has also been reflected in the smaller breeds. Welsh ewes, for example, have been making £38.

Tups, too, have been a fast trade. On Monday at Welshpool they were typically between £65 and £70.

As for the future, although trade traditionally firms in the new year, the view of many nowis that prices are so high, theyare unlikely to rise muchmore.