1 December 1995

Short cull ewes on a price high

SHORT numbers and an improvement in quality have helped cull ewe prices rise.

At Taunton last Saturday, for example, the entry of nearly 1400 averaged £31, up over £4 on the week. And trade shows no sign of weakening, according to auctioneer Michael Powell.

A lot of stressed ewes were seen in the autumn following the dry weather, notes auctioneer John Burgin at Melton Mowbray. "But it was remarkable how quickly quality improved when the rains came."

And although national averages have climbed over £7/head in the last three months, strong, well-meated ewes remain in short supply.

Auctioneer Brian Pile from Banbury says, however, that the situation has improved since September when "droves and droves" of very plain animals were marketed.

Demand for the plainer stock is coming from graziers who hope to sell them on a strong trade prior to the end of the new single Sheep Annual Premium retention period on May 25.

Such a plan could yield useful returns, reckons Mr Pile. "But the ewes have to be lean enough to be able to put on weight; but not too lean or they will suffer in the winter.

"Some will have poor teeth and be hard to feed. So a hard winter could yet make it a difficult enterprise," he says.