Firm stores and £200 shearlings show confidence

Abundant grass and firm early store lamb averages have left a strong trade for good-quality shearlings at early sales, with better types often hitting £200.

As flockmasters consider breeding sheep budgets, the most expensive winter in memory will be at the back of people’s minds, particularly those short of forage and exposed to hard feed prices of £400/t.

But some flocks less affected by last year’s dry period and poor scanning results are seeing ewes rearing 1.7 lambs turn over more than £200 a head, while elsewhere lamb supply is tight.

See also: Mules up on the year to average £178 at Thame Sheep Fair

This balance of factors has seen saleyards report strong prices for well-turned out sheep, although there has been a large variation in quality.

As well as Thame averages being up, the following sale results suggest buyers may have to look closely for bargains this year:

  • North West Auctions (19 August): An entry of 5,000 mixed-aged ewes and shearlings averaged £135 at Junction 36. Cheviot Mules averaged £181 across the board, back £6 on the year. Shearlings topped at £190 and £185. Mule shearlings levelled at £172.64, £3.36 back on the year.
  • Welshpool (14 August): An entry of 626 ewes saw yearlings average £197.73 and two-year-olds average £200. North of England Mules topped at £235, with strongest sheep at £210-£225, second quality types at £200 and farming sheep at £175 upwards. Plenty of bidders went home empty handed.
  • Hereford (15 August): An entry of 487 breeding ewes Texel Mules sold to £195, and Suffolk mules to £190. Lots of sheep hit £170-£175 and leaner ewes hit £150-£165. Purchasers were prepared to pay for the right goods.
  • Store lambs: Last year’s store lamb AHDB average hovered around £78 a head in August, before suffering amid a dry autumn and spending most of the time at £67-£71 a head. This year, stores have averaged £80.14 and £82.61 in the past two weeks, which is £2 and £2.31 a head up on the year. 
  • Prime lambs: A liveweight lift in August may serve to prop up falling deadweight prices. Last week’s SQQ was 21p/kg up on the year at 269p/kg and 11p/kg up on the week, making a 45kg lamb £9.45 dearer on the year.