Commercial farmers came out in force to support firm prices at the National Sheep Association Wales and Border Main Ram Sale at Builth Wells this week (23 September).
Fewer sheep were forward overall, but a higher proportion of rams found new homes, with the clearance rate lifting to 85.7%, up from 80% last year.
Trade topped with a Texel from the Brijon flock at 7,000gns and the day’s overall average price was £533.51, a lift of £23 on the year.
Auctioneer Chris Armstrong, of Hexham and Northern Marts, said trade in ring 15 was above vendors’ expectations.
He added commercial prime lamb producers generally had a budget of 500-700gns for good quality stock.
“The ring topped at 7,000gns and also had shearlings down to 200gns – we saw the full spread of prices,” said Mr Armstrong.
The cream of the commercial tups sold towards the four-figure mark, with the ring seeing shearlings average 772gns and ram lambs 505gns.
Commenting on the resilience of sheep farmers and the firm trade on the day, Mr Armstrong said: “Whatever happens or doesn’t happen at the end of October, it doesn’t change the fact sheep farmers, and particularly upland sheep farmers, can’t do much else with the ground they have – we do sheep or we do trees.
“Farmers are operating in the face of negativity and the move to veganism. We, as an industry, are under the cosh, but farmers keep showing how resilient they are.”
A sharp drop (-20%) in Bluefaced Leicester sires forward was reported, with a total of 450 this year, compared to 569-head in 2019 and 30% fewer shearlings forward, mainly as a result of the Beast from the East in 2018.
This is according to Andrew Walton of Michael Walton who said good commercial tups were regularly making 650-900gns. He added the strong shearling trade was helped by tight supplies.
The highlight was a ram lamb at 4,200gns (see right) but averages were back on the year £12 for lambs at £591, with lambs hitting a 73% clearance.
However, more shearlings sold at 97% clearance with averages in this section up £70 to level at £377.
He said most sires were of the traditional ‘true blue’ type, to breed to white-faced ewes, but some crossing-type rams were being bought by farmers with Beulahs.
He added: “Plainer sheep have been getting harder to see for a number of years now and some people have got tired of bringing them to market.”
Averages slipped in the Charollais rings, with 206 shearlings averaging £606 (-£18 on the year) and 205 ram lambs levelling at £424 (-£45 on the year) at a 72% clearance overall.
Greg Christopher of Brightwells said that if a pedigree breeder was interested in a lamb it would reach four figures, evidenced by shearlings topping at 3,200gns and ram lambs at 3,000gns.
Mr Christopher said, in general, good commercial ram lambs were making 400-500gns, with second-choice animals at 250-350gns.
“The best shearlings went to £800-£1,000, and a lot of good commercial shearlings hit 600-700gns, with second-quality and smaller animals at 400-500gns,” he added.
The Suffolk rings saw some of the fastest trading and strongest prices, with Maedi-visna accredited ram lambs lifting £58 on the year to £454 and topping at £1,050.
The non-Maedi-visna accredited Suffolk ram lambs topped at £1,650 (see right) and lifted £160 a head to average £729, with older rams lifting £164 to average £729.
Sale chairman Richard Gwilliam said: “It’s been a great relief. There has been a very strong trade, particularly on the Suffolks. There was so much competition and the confidence to buy them was colossal today.
“We thought they were going out of fashion but they seemed to do the best trade of the day.”