Flocks have ploughed last year’s profits back into breeding sheep, lifting many in-lamb ewes by £30 on the year and ewes with lambs by £10 a life.
Exeter and Sedgemoor’s sales of ewes and lambs have averaged £10 more on the year across January and February sales. This has set the tone for a strong trade, despite the challenging winter weather.
A Brexit deal, a national SQQ of 287.4p/kg on Monday and talk of tight sheep numbers in Europe are reasons auctioneers are confident about the sheep sector.
However, saturated land and hefty straw and feed cheques may put a cap on prices.
Alastair Brown at Bletsoes said trade was up to £10 a life dearer for couples and £30-£40 up on the best in-lamb sheep.
But he said it was still early days to call the breeding trade, stressing that good drying weather was needed, particularly on the heavier land in the area.
“Weather can put a spark in the trade. And when it is sunny on a Saturday sale day there tends to be more hands in the air,” said Mr Brown.
He said recent sales had seen full mouth Texel cross ewes in-lamb with twins sell to £290 an outfit and Mule shearlings with twins to £190.
He said it would be interesting to see just how dear hogg prices went and whether the spring lamb trade followed. “Back in 2018 hoggs were very dear, but the spring lamb were £15 a head less.”
Good lowland ewes with twins at foot have made £40 more per outfit than last year in the Hereford sale ring, said auctioneer Robert Meadmore, from Hereford Market Auctioneers.
Tuesday’s sale (16 February) averaged £131 for just under 500 in-lamb ewes, with good Mules and Texel cross three- and four-year-olds with twins making £140-£165.
He said trade wasn’t as strong as it had been – compared to averages of £173 and £161 in January for entries of 478 and 930 respectively – but it was much sharper on the year.
Last week 878 in-lamb sheep averaged £126, which was £6 dearer for 208 more sold on the year. And one consignor made £250-£280 a ewe compared to £220-£240 last year.
As a yardstick, Mr Meadmore said a recent commercial consignment of 150 Welsh Mule yearlings carrying three-quarter bred lambs averaged £200 a head.
Increase in price (a life) for ewes and lambs in January and February at Exeter, averaging £77
SQQ (p/kg) of 633 old season lambs at Wigton on Tuesday (16 February), back 10.4p/kg on the week
Average deadweight price (p/kg) of heavy lambs in France at the start of February