Farmers Weekly Trade Talk

29th February 2016

We are very busy at Ashford Cattle Market, deep in the South East of England, closer to Calais than to Parliament Square, but still populated in the region by enough sheep to allow us to offer in excess of 5000 sheep every Tuesday at this time of the year. 3000 finished hoggets, 1500 store tegs, 650 cull ewes and even 36 sock lambs this week made for an early start grading, sorting and weighing but the auction was underway at 10am prompt and all finished by 12.30pm to allow dispatch to all points North and West!

There is little doubt that long before the IN/OUT referendum takes place on the 23rd June that we are going to be seriously ****** off with the hyped up arguments of both sides and the inane questioning of a frenzied media pack!

What we can all be grateful for in the livestock sector, and probably in other commodity markets beyond, is the disquiet and uncertainty created by the likes of David, Boris, Nigel and Nicola upon the financial and currency markets. Watching Sterling fall steadily this year and quite dramatically at the end of February will put a wry smile on the face of lamb finishers who recognise the advantage this brings to exporters; the increased prices it creates for importers; and, in general, the more competitive bite it gives to trading conditions at this very important time of the year. We will sell large numbers of hoggets in the month running up to Easter, and for the month beyond but the importance of this period of trading stretches way beyond the old season lamb giving all important confidence to the sheep producer right through from the immediate lambing period, through the spring lamb trade, into the autumn sales of both breeding and store lambs and by that time all will be decided and we will be either moored up just off New England or all of us will have to be brushing up on our German and Eastern European languages!!

Prices, to be honest, are far from great in comparison to some we have known over the years but they are so much better than the dire gloom of last Autumn. We saw an SQQ of over 190p with Charollais hoggets at £100 from N&D Attwood and the smartest Beltex at 232p/kg from JA Cox but the real importance is the improvement it brings to competition and confidence and that is passed on to everyone.