Cull ewe values on keen edge

16 February 2001

Cull ewe values on keen edge

STRONG demand from ethnic communities and food processors is combining with a more favourable exchange rate, manifested by a stronger k, to put a keen edge on cull ewe prices.

Farmers with old ewes to sell are also benefiting from a reduction in supplies after record slaughterings in the last quarter of 2000, and from the export-led buoyancy of the prime lamb market.

About 750,000 more ewes were killed in the last quarter of 2000, a rise of 16%. Disposals for the whole year were up from 2.29m to 2.42m head. Despite the rush to sell, light ewes averaged £18.23/head in December, 20% more than the previous year. A similar price rise was recorded for heavier ewes passing through British auctions.

Last weeks close saw light ewes in auction marts average £26.76, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission, with heavyweights levelling at £35.87 a piece. Both compare well to the same week the year before, with prices about £4 higher.

Market watchers say the large number of year-end entries was stimulated by several factors, including the dispersal of many unprofitable lowland breeding flocks. Better prices for animals that breeders could not give away two years ago, also removed the temptation to hang on to older ewes and put them to the tup.

December census results are expected to show a significant decline in the UKs breeding ewe flock. This, coupled with poor weather at tupping time, means the 2001 lamb crop might be only slightly bigger than last seasons disappointing one.

Tighter supplies and continued concern about BSE, especially in France, should put more money in UK lamb producers pockets in the coming months. &#42

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