Store lambs down – but still too high
By Tim Relf
STORE lambs are making about £10 less than last summer at £30 – but according to some people even that is too much.
"Dangerously high," is how East Anglian finisher Andrew Foulds describes prices. "Some people have pretty short memories," he says, fearful that a strong £ and New Zealand imports could again undermine finished prices later in the season.
A "two-tier" trade could, therefore, open up for stores, with the longer-keep ones in less demand, says Mr Foulds. His advice to farmers with stores to sell is do it sooner rather than later – because values could fall.
"I am nervous having to give £25 to £26," he says. "People must not forget that, although they have plenty of grass, we could all be on a hiding to nothing."
Vendors, meanwhile, have been less than pleased. "Obviously disappointing," says Kent farmer Trevor Richards, after the batch he sold at Ashfords first big store auction last Friday made £7/head less than a year ago.
"Its about what we budgeted for, though," says Mr Richards. "Considering the losses some people made last year, its not surprising stores are making less. They have probably been too dear for the last few years."
But the sheep business remains the only half-decent sector, says Mr Richards. "Thankfully we have no beef cattle."
Howard Bates, another Kent farmer who sold at Ashford, has a similar view. "Its what people were expecting," he says of prices. "A lot of people lost a cartload of money on hogget fattening in the spring." Mr Batess Texel cross animals sold to £32.40/head.
Ashford auctioneer Elwyn Davies says the stores on offer are typically not as strong this season as those of 12 months ago. Farmers, he reckons, have slaughtered the more-forward ones in the face of the relatively-buoyant finished prices.
"Store buyers are cautious – but there is plenty of grass," he says.
Trouble is, says National Sheep Association chief executive John Thorley, much of the grass is poor quality – so stock isnt finishing as well as it could.
And besides, plentiful supplies of grass shouldnt, in itself, justify paying big money for stores. But as Andrew Foulds says: "A lot of farmers would rather waste money than grass."