Trade Talk from Russell Steer, Director, Kivells, Exeter Livestock Centre

12th October 2018

What a turbulent time the past eight months have proved to be! Evidence indeed of just how vulnerable livestock farming is to extremes of weather, and the knock-on effects this has across the whole industry, particularly the breeding sheep trade. As the sheep auctioneer in Exeter, selling 200,000 sheep annually, it has been a tough, although not all together disastrous, sheep selling season. 

We’re fortunate down here in that we kick off earlier than the rest of the country with our breeding ewe sales, the first of which happens with the Dorset May Fair. The week of this sale we sold both prime hoggs and new season lambs to a top of £146 as well as cull sheep to £140, so it was no surprise that the better end of pure Dorset shearlings were £175 to £200 and up £20 on the year. 

One of our biggest sales is the July Fair, when over 3200 Suffolk cross ewes and shearlings went through the ring and sold at a decent level. Although the dry weather was beginning to be talked about, hampering the trade for second quality sorts, the best older Suffolk cross ewes flew to £154 and shearlings peaked at £150. 

Just three weeks later, our August sale of Mule shearlings hit in the extreme of the drought and was probably the most testing day of my career to date. A trade best described as selective saw the better end shearlings selling from £130 to a top £160 for the Champions. 

The remainder of our sales have followed in a similar vein, and as the sale season draws to a close, with many parts of the Midlands and South still needing significant rain, it remains unlikely that things will change dramatically, but then I said that in the spring!