9 April 1999

Scarce new lambs make brisk prices

NEW-SEASON lambs are making brisk prices as limited numbers are sold.

"Im really delighted," says West Country farmer Jeremy Hosking, who saw a batch last weekend make 330p/kg dw. "That was way beyond my expectations. It looks as if its set fair for the next six weeks, too."

But the chance of any further upturn is limited, says Mr Hosking. "Id be very surprised if it hit 350p."

"Better than expected" is how Essex producer Gerald Ketley describes the early season business. But where values will be in six weeks time when he sells his first batch of the season is another matter. "I dont think they will be as high as they are now."

The number on offer will rapidly build towards the end of the month. "Most people in this area are about three weeks behind," Mr Ketley. "The sheep have been poaching and not grazing properly."

Auctioneer Gavin Loynes at Gloucester has also seen wet conditions slow the progress of lambs. Their arrival in marts has also been delayed, after farmers put back lambing to catch the post-Easter trade which proved better than pre-Easter over the last couple of years.

"Everyone is looking for them, too," says Mr Loynes. Monday at Gloucester saw the best making 160p/kg lw or more. Some are topping £60/head. "People are happy – the job is looking a bit better at the moment."

Hoggets, meanwhile, could stay a good trade, with lamb numbers likely to build only slowly over the next four weeks, says Mr Loynes.

As April unfolds more hoggets could fall foul of the Specified Risk Material dentition rules. Those that do are only making about £28-£30, says Mr Loynes.

Auctioneer Rob Meadmore at Hay-on-Wye also warns about teething rules. "My advice to people with tegs is throw as many pellets at them as possible and get them gone by the end of the month."

While its still only a handful involved – those affected are discounted by £10 or £15/head,

&#8226 New-season lambs averaged 153p/kg lw at GB marts on Monday. Hoggets were 97.5p/kg. &#42

Store value at post-BSE high

DEMAND for store cattle is buoyant as farmers talk more confidently about the long-term beef outlook.

Trade at Ross-on-Wye at last Saturdays offering of 700 was the dearest at the venue since the BSE crisis struck, says auctioneer Richard Williams.

The brisker finished cattle trade and better sward conditions contributed, he says. "Grass is growing well. This time last year, we were having dreadful conditions and nobody wanted to turn cattle out."

Stock was making £20-£30/head more than at the Ross sale a month earlier, adds Mr Williams. "Farmers are more optimistic," he says. "But whether that optimism is founded or not is another matter," he says.

Richard Wood, auctioneer at Ashford, Kent, also advises caution. "I still think the store trade is too dear against the fat trade which is not getting any better.

"The prospects for the finished trade are a bit brighter in the long term – but its a case of how many hiccups we have between now and then."

At Longtown, Cumbria, auctioneer Haig Murray has seen some renewed confidence among bidders around the store ring, with subsidy potential a key factor driving demand. Some of the smaller cattle of green CIDs have been making more than £400, he says.

Farmers are also re-investing money made on stores bought cheaply last autumn. Heifers bought last back-end for £200 have been sold for £400 and bullocks costing £300 have been sold for £500 recently. "A decent-sized one can make £600. Its a long time since we have seen that." &#42

Scots parks rise

GRASS park lets in Scotland have shown big price rises on last year and got dearer as the season progressed.

Increases have ranged from 9% to 40% – the latter coming at Newton Stewart where James Craig auctioned 1200 acres to average £148.50/acre. The rise partly reflected beef farmers meeting extensification requirements.

At Ayr, 550 acres averaged £90, a rise of 31%. And at Castle Douglas, 2070 acres levelled £81, up 9% on the year with a top of £201/acre. At Stirling, 2000 acres made to £152 and averaged £65/acre, up 12%.

Only a large entry of bare, old grass at the Lanark round of sales kept averages the same as the 1998 figure of £67. "Young grass was much dearer than last year," said auctioneer Brian Ross. &#42

Farmers have been "pleasantly surprised" at the money new-season lambs are making this spring. Meanwhile people still with hoggets – some of which are on roots – should finish them as soon as possible to avoid discounted prices under the specified risk material dentition rules, say auctioneers.

Michael James with the heifer which went on to make 4000gns at last weeks sale from his high-yielding Heritage herd. More details, page 33.

APR 9 Spring sale for Oswestry and Welsh Borders Suckled Calf Breeders Association. Featuring 666 Continental cross cattle. Oswestry Cattle Auctions (01691 653547)

APR 10 Dispersal of the Pevland herd of 70 Holsteins. Plus machinery and equipment. Berkeley, Glos. Gwilym Richards (01453 521600)

APR 10 Dispersal of HGV, workshop equipment and fittings, plus tractor and implement spares (1000-plus lots). Gainsborough, Lincs. JH Walter (01522 526526)

APR 10 Sale of store cattle and store sheep. Worcester.

McCartneys (01584 872251)

APR 12 Collective machinery and equipment sale. Ely, Cambs. Cheffins Grain & Comins

(01353 777767)

APR 12 Dispersal of the Sparham herd of 320 Holsteins. Swaffham, Norfolk. Norton & Brooksbank (01285 841333)

APR 12 Catalogue sale of cows and calves. Also store cattle. Rugby. Rugby Livestock (01788 565333)

APR 13 Dispersal of 235-head herd of Holsteins. Plus dairy equipment, machinery and implements. Stockbridge, Hants. Greenslade Taylor Hunt (01935 423474)

APR 13 First spring sale for British Charolais Cattle Society. Northampton. Northamptonshire Auctions (01604 769990)

APR 13 Sale of tractors, harvesters, machinery and grading equipment. Soham, Cambs. Cheffins Grain & Comins (01353 654900)

APR 14 Sale of 100 Holsteins from the Fielders herd. Kirkby Thore. Cumbria. Norton & Brooksbank (01285 841333)

APR 14 Auction of implements and machinery. Winscombe, Somerset. James B King (01275 333400)

APR 15 Sale of 210 dairy cows and heifers. Thatcham, Berks. Greenslade Taylor Hunt (01935 423474)

APR 15 Dispersal of the Panksbridge herd of 120 Holsteins. Bromyard, Herefordshire. Gwilym Richards (01453 521600)

APR 16 Dispersal of 153 Holstein Friesian and Brown Swiss. Plus steers, milking equipment and deadstock. Fordingbridge, Hants. Southern Counties Auctioneers (01722 321215)

APR 17 Gold Top sale of 33 cattle for the Lakes Counties Jersey Breeders Club. Carlisle, Cumbria. Harrison & Hetherington

(01228 590490)