Positive start to sheep marketing season

Colin Slessor in action at Thainstone
Colin Slessor in action at Thainstone

With the autumn sheep trade well-underway, Aberdeen & Northern Marts is pleased to report positive trading conditions and market outlook for the lamb sector.

Colin Slessor, Auctioneer and Deputy Head of Livestock at ANM, said: “The industry is doing well at the moment and prices are up ahead of last year which is very pleasing. Sheep trade at Thainstone and Caithness has been satisfactory, and the improved weather has certainly helped all sectors of the industry.

"Assuming all goes well with Brexit negotiations, the future of the sheep industry looks optimistic.”

Prices for prime sheep are ahead of last year with averages between £1.65 to £1.70 per kg liveweight. The overall trade is firm, particularly for lambs weighing over 43kg. ANM has a decent market for heavier lambs of 45kg and over, which is heavier than the specification for most abattoirs buying deadweight, and prices of over £80 per head are being achieved.

The cull ewe trade has been strong through July and August, with top end pure Suffolk and pure Continental ewes regularly crossing the £110 to £120 mark per head.

Trade is certainly ahead of last autumn where good quality store lambs were selling in the region of £40 per head. At a recent sale, one Shetland farmer had 250 Suffolk-cross lambs forward and was delighted to achieve an average of £61.62 per head.

Mr Slessor commented: “Our weekly sales of all categories of sheep ensure a regular and strong selection of stock for buyers to purchase. The auction system is leading the way and continues to benefit both buyers and sellers in achieving the true market value for their stock.”

ANM’s first ewe lamb sale of the season saw strong tupping lambs meeting a sound demand and prices reached between £100 to £120 per head, while smaller, longer-keep gimmering lambs achieved £80 to £100 per head. Longer-keep lambs have yet to find their true market value as farmers finish harvest and start planning beyond the uncertainties of Brexit and rising costs of feed.

The recent gimmer sale was two-tiered, with the best Mule gimmers achieving a very good trade and averaging £150 per head. Buyers were more selective for the next level of perfectly decent gimmers, which is a trend seen across the country. However, trade may improve in October as some of the tail-end ewe hoggs were culled in the spring when the prime trade was flying.

The Caithness August show and sale of ewe lambs recorded an impressive trade for Half-bred and Cheviot ewe lambs, with averages for both categories up on the year. The store lamb trade in Caithness has also been firm, with the top end of stock selling well to a strong ring-side of buyers.

Export demand for prime lambs has been buoyant with most going to various parts of Europe, predominately Germany and France. The increased supply of ewes over the next few months may influence the price. Fixed killing costs per head are impacting exporters, particularly for lighter pure native lambs.

The grass situation is still a concern for farmers, and there are some who are finishing off lambs using concentrate. Others have opted to sell their store lambs to ensure adequate supplies of grass for their ewes pre-tupping.

In Aberdeenshire, the grazing situation has stabilised, and many farmers have been able to take second and third cuts of silage. The area received rain at the right time, stimulating grass growth and giving the region’s agricultural industry a much-needed uplift.