15 September 2000

If Kelso is any indication, sheep men are willing to spend having, enjoyed a run of lamb sales which shook off the poor returns of 1999.

Sheep men indicate willingness to spend

By Jeremy Hunt

A GREATER willingness by commercial sheep producers to pay more for flock sires pushed averages up in most breeds when 6501 rams came under the hammer at last weeks Kelso ram sales.

With 10 auctioneering firms operating in 17 rings, this was the first real opportunity to test the widely held belief that confidence is creeping back into the sheep trade.

Sheep producers are not flushed with cash, but their spirits were raised by better-than-expected summer prime lamb prices and the prospect of a rise in the value of breeding lambs this autumn.

"In recent weeks, we have seen an increase in both fat and store lamb prices and latest figures suggest an uplift in lamb consumption," said Ron Wilson, secretary of the Border Union Agricultural Society, which organises the sale. "This has given realistic confidence to sheep producers who were prepared to go the extra yard to get the rams they wanted."

The overall average for rams was £335 – up £51 on the year – for 5644 sold, an 87% clearance.

Two of the main terminal sire breeds – Suffolk and Texel – enjoyed a cracking trade, with shearling averages well up at £75 and £40 respectively.

It was a great day for Texel ram buyers, with a new breed record of £7800 being paid for a shearling.

The ram, consigned by Neil Crighton, Loanend, Berwick-on-Tweed, was bought by Alan Jackson, Alnwick, and helped to achieve the breeds record average for this fixture – £360 for 1082 shearling rams. The Loanend pen achieved the sales second highest average, selling 45 rams for £778.

Texel auctioneer Brian Ross of Lawrie and Symington described the trade as a "a great confidence boost for the sheep sector".

He went on: "There was a very strong trade for Texels, with many commercial buyers ready to give £450-£600 for tups. The top price is the highest ever paid for a Texel shearling in the UK." The 57 Texel ram lambs averaged £229 – up £51.

The entry of Suffolk shearling rams saw 1021 sold to average £375 and reach £1200 twice, both bids coming for sheep from a strong pen from the Campbell familys Thrunton flock at Alnwick, Northumberland.

Both rams were by the flocks 20,000gns ram Glenisla Ivanhoe. Buyers were Patrick Stephen, who runs the Conglass flock in Aberdeen, and Dr David Radcliffe, a new Suffolk breeder from Belford, Northumberland. The Thrunton flock average was £611 for 35 shearling rams.

But topping the Suffolks was a £6000 call for a Muiresk lamb from top breeders SG Mair and Sons. Buyer was Northern Ireland-based William Tait, who runs the Burnview flock. His bid helped level the 33 Muiresk lambs at £728. The Mairs also sold at £2200, and the same sum was paid for a Suffolk from young breeder Stephen Barrons Findowrie flock at Angus.

Charollais shearlings reached £720 to average £239 for 429 head, and 122 Border Leicester shearlings levelled at £307 (up £26) after peaking at £1100.

Blue-faced Leicester shearlings were in great demand, selling to £2400 for an entry from A Clarke, Cumnock, Ayrshire. J Wight and Sons Midlock flock achieved the highest average for the breed of £795 for 12 rams and MC Robinson and Son, West Cocklaw, Northum-berland, levelled 20 at £746.

But the highest breed average was claimed by the Beltex, with 52 deals levelling at £409. Top price was £700 for a shearling from R and M Paterson, Dunblane, Perthshire. &#42