Trade Talk - Stephen Dennis

20th May 2016

In the North West the first week in May sees the start of the premier sales for hoggs with lambs at foot.  The first of the Bentham Sales held last Wednesday is highly regarded as offering top quality annual consignments and looking back at the 2015 sale results I was reminded how expensive they were.  Mule hoggs with singles averaged throughout £197 per family and Continentals / Suffolk X with singles £190 per family.

As I canvassed customers this year it was obvious similar aspirations would not be met.  As always the weather is king and a cold hungry spring with a severe shortage of grass country wide meant many farmers were in no position to put more hooves on the ground.  Furthermore last year’s poor summer lamb trade had not been forgotten and for many northern farmers the promise rather than reality of Basic Farm Payment has put pressure on finances.

In short ‘no grass and no brass’!  The end result was averages at last week’s sale for Mules with singles of £160 per family and Continental / Suffolk X with singles £153 per family.  A higher percentage of second quality sheep forward probably distorts the comparable but it would be fair to say that like for like couples would be £30 to £35 down on the year (£15 - £18 per life).  

A Better Month Ahead

Warmer dryer weather finally seems to have arrived and as the grass comes in abundance I can only see couples going dearer. In comparison to all other livestock sectors sheep have been as good as it gets and the strong cull ewe market must help, (last Wednesday’s sale at Bentham saw most Mule cull ewes trading at £70 to £85 with heavier ones in the £90’s, Continental X ewes often either side of £100 per head).

Therefore young replacements at £80 to £90 per life look a good swap to me, furthermore a spike in the prime hogget and new season lamb trade looks to be definitely on the cards for the month of May so in the short term things are looking better.

The last Wednesday in May Bentham Mart holds its Annual Whitsuntide Hogg and Lamb Sale where towards 1000 outfits will be forward, hope to see you there.

Stephen J. Dennis MRICS FLAA

Senior Auctioneer

Bentham & District Farmers' Auction Mart Co. Ltd.