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​​​​​​​Live sales system helping producers improve genetics of the flock

Posted on: 8th August, 2023

Practical advice and preparation key to a successful breeding sheep sale season for buyers and vendors

Heading into the breeding sheep show and sale season, buyers will be travelling across the country looking to replenish flocks, and source best quality ewes, shearlings, and ewe lambs, via the live sales ring

The show and sale season also provides an opportunity for producers to showcase their best stock in front of a competitive audience.

Tom Davies, store and breeding sheep auctioneer at Welshpool Livestock Sales says sales provide not only a local, but also a national platform for farmers to present their stock.

“The endless hours of preparation spent trimming and washing comes down to hopefully winning or placing in the presale show. The kudos of winning or placing could be the difference between obtaining an average price or a record-breaking price,” he says.

Will Alexander, auctioneer at Bentham Auction Mart agrees, stating, “Presale shows, together with sales of breeding sheep, give an opportunity for vendors to showcase months of breeding and preparation, whilst realising the best possible prices for their stock, through a competitive ringside of potential purchasers.”

Preparing for the breeding sheep sale season

According to Russell Steer, auctioneer at Exeter Livestock Centre, the key is to be fully prepared, with access to the best technical advice ahead of selling and showing sheep.

“As a vendor, by liaising with your auctioneer, you can gain valuable insight into which livestock to sell, and how to meet buyer requirements,” he explains.

“By providing the auctioneer with as much information as possible prior to the sale, such as health status and genetics, this can all be added to the catalogue and enhance your chances of achieving the best price.

“Of course, the simple reality is that well-presented and dressed sheep will provide added value in the sales ring. If you can also ensure consistency in the run of breeding sheep you are selling, you will be well positioned to obtain the best price,” he adds.

Buyers travel the length and breadth of the country

Bentham Auction Mart holds its two-day Mule Gimmer lamb sale, where purchasers gather from throughout the country to secure future breeding sheep, predominantly the North of England Mule Gimmer lamb, but also Cheviot Mule, Dales Mule and Masham.

One of those travelling up to Bentham, as well as Kirkby Stephen, is Emily Pearse, a Farmers Weekly Young Farmer of the Year finalist in 2022, who runs her own flock of North Country Mules from the family farm in mid-Devon. She also works as a contract shepherd.

“I buy around 250 ewe lambs in the autumn, via both Bentham and Kirkby, generally buying from the same people, simply because I like their sheep. It may not be quite such a scientific approach, but it is very much with genetics in mind,” she says.

Mr Alexander comments, “Emily is fast growing a reputation of a well-respected shepherdess, with an eye for the finer details of the North of England Mule.”

Ms Pearse, who has also judged a number of ewe lamb shows in Yorkshire over the past three years, including at Bentham in 2021, often lambs the ewe lambs and then sells them on as shearlings through a mixture of private sales in the south and through Exeter Livestock Centre.

“I really appreciate the community spirit and getting in front of ‘proper market buyers’,” Ms Pearse explains.

A barometer for the rest of the season

Indeed, Ms Pearse secured the second prize rosette in her first time of selling Suffolk cross shearling ewes at Exeter’s Great July Sheep Sale on 11th July this year.

This was the first breeding sheep sale of the season at Exeter, with over 5,000 shearlings and ewes sold. A slightly reduced entry of sheep on the year, sold to a much stronger trade, averaging around £20 dearer.

“There were a few less about, but a lot of good quality. We have now had a bit of rain, so buyers are looking for quality and decent numbers,” says Mr Steer.

“You would like to think that sets us in good stead, and is a good barometer for the rest of the season,” he adds.

Chris Dodds, executive secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association (LAA) says the autumn breeding sheep sales season is a highlight for breeders and buyers alike across the country.

“Auctioneers can play a key role in not only supporting your purchasing decisions, but also provide the competitive environment for vendors to achieve best price, representing their hard work in bringing their sheep to market in top condition,” he says.