Economies hit as ewe lambs down by £1m
PAIN being felt by Scottish sheep farmers has been clear during recent weeks at the annual round of breeding sales. At Lockerbie, 3261 Halfbred ewe lambs averaged £34.20, a drop of £20, or 37%. That set the tone.
The Halfbred dam line is the North Country Cheviot, with most bought out of Lairg in Sutherland. Last week 8000 of them, better grown than last year, averaged £19.50, a drop of £12.20, or 37%. At the same sale 18,000 wedder lambs, to be finished over the winter, also averaged £10.50, down £6.53, or 25%. One feature of the day was a premium of £2.50/hd for farm assured ewe lambs.
Auctioneer David Leggat, of United Auctions, said the sale gross was £500,000 compared with £700,000 last year and £1.2m in 1997.
"That spells great hardship for the farmers, but it will also mean there is very little money to be spent in the ancillary industries which depend on agriculture," he said.
Scotch Mule ewe lambs were next to gain attention, with 11,000 offered at Thornhill on Saturday. The final average was £29.95, the lowest for about 20 years and down £27.30, or 47.6%.
"The mood of caution was very evident and there were about 2000 more lambs forward for this first sale," said auctioneer Stuart Thomson.
At Castle Douglas on Monday the average for 16,672 was £27.20, a fall of almost £24 or 47% on the year, and with a top of £55. Regular buyer Robert Dalrymple from Ballantrae in south Ayrshire gave £54 compared with £85 last year.
"Ewe lamb prices reflect the crisis in the whole sheep industry. My finished lambs averaged £47 up to the end of August last year. This time we will be about £12 down on that figure," he said.
Auctioneer Robin Anderson said the real tragedy was that between his sale and the one at Thornhill, £750,000 less was going into the rural economy. *