The Livestock Auctioneers' Association Limited (LAA)

Farmers Guardian September 2015

16th September 2015

Having being asked to comment on trade and struggling to gather my thoughts, it was suggested that I should try poetry, so for a bit of fun here is a summary set in rhyme…. Or almost!

Trade for the year is anyone’s guess

But if you ask me it’s got in a mess.

Shearlings are down and ewes are bad too;

Gimmer lambs alright and tups will do.

Fat lambs have been sluggish for most of the year

But cast ewes are the saviour, at times very dear.

So what about cattle?  Well dairy are down, but the

Prices for milk would make anyone frown.

Store cattle hardly dropped, so calves have been strong

And a buoyant cull cow trade has helped Dairymen on.

So what about store lambs? – I nearly forgot

Well it’s all about keep and there’s still a lot.

So prices are good compared to the fat.

If they pay in the short term, I’ll eat my hat!

Apologies to any readers with any literary prowess – as an Auctioneer I have always been better with figures than words, perhaps the fumes from  pearl dip at this week’s gimmer lamb sales has affected my judgement and I will regret my foray into poetry.

However talking of gimmer lamb sales these are now well underway with most of the major sales of breeding ewes and shearlings behind us.

The first Thame sale normally sets the mark for trade in the south and midlands with an average for North Country Mule shearlings around £118, a warning sign that confidence was fragile.  The following week one of the south west’s premier sales for Mule shearlings at Exeter returned an average of £126  with trade much sharper.  Overall shearlings seem to be down by £10 to £25 per head with the north generally fairing better.  Our own sale at Bentham with a reputation for quality sheep levelled at £134 which has probably been as good as it has got anywhere.

At the time of writing the major gimmer lamb sales for North Country Mules in the north west have just got underway with most sales to date reporting averages between £90 to £92 (down approx. £8 on the year).  Tupping lambs look cheap compared to running lambs where the emphasis seems less on ‘profit’ and more on ‘easy farming’.

To summarise my thoughts on the breeding sheep trade I would say that buyers have been understandably cautious.  We all know that the main driver for lamb trade is the export market and there seems little evidence to suggest a long term decline in the strength of sterling, so next year’s lamb trade may be no better.  In the immediate short term the Muslim Community celebrate ‘Eid ‘ later this month so a brief spike in trade may be enjoyed, following which the prospects of trade for sheep meat would best be described as ‘uncertain’.  Last year however I predicted a slump after the festival only to be proven wrong as trade built in the run up to Christmas (the slump came later!).  So good luck to all store lamb buyers …….  As they say you have got to be in it to win it!