THERE’S rarely a more exciting time to be around livestock markets than autumn when the breeding sheep sales are held. This is when those farmers that have bred stock not for meat but to provide productive quality ewes and rams that farmer colleagues will buy to improve their flocks earn their money. It’s their breeding sheep harvest.
Ruswarp livestock market near Whitby is now in full swing with its current programme and saw an encouraging increase on numbers forward last year for its lowland breeding sheep sale held on Wednesday this week. It looked all set to replicate the feat for yesterday’s and today’s horned lamb and ewe sales.
Robert Smith is one of the auctioneers at Ruswarp working alongside Ian Halley and they were side by side in the auctioneer’s box in midweek. The duo realise the importance of this period and in recent years have spent considerable time and energy in ensuring that farmers want to bring their stock.
“Last year we set about modifying our sales programme with the intention of grabbing more custom and giving our farmers a greater service through attracting more sheep.
“One of the sales we particularly earmarked for attention was the lowland breeding sheep sale today (Wednesday).
“This sale had traditionally been held in a field in Castleton and was known as the annual Castleton Sheep Sale. There were also others held in Glaisdale.
“Since the foot and mouth disease year of 2001 it had been moved here but numbers had dwindled. While we are renowned as a hilly area, as we are next to the North York Moors not everywhere is hilly and there are reasonable quantities of lowland sheep.
“Our aim was to win back those who might have been taking their stock elsewhere, often several more miles than they needed to, and rebuild what had always been a successful sale when it had been held at Castleton.
“We put a committee of farmers and ourselves together and we’re getting it back on track. Today we’ve had over 1,500 head of sheep, which is a great increase on where it had got to a few years ago when it was as low as 600.”
Ruswarp’s largest sale of the autumn isn’t sheep however. It is their annual suckled calf sale that is now held over two days and draws the crowds, particularly buyers.
“It’s our biggest sale of the year. It is always busy, noisy and produces a fantastic atmosphere all around the mart.
“Our buyers come from huge distances because they know they are going to get good quality and well-reared, hardy cattle. Many of our local breeders keep either Charolais, Limousin, Blonde d’Aquitaine, Simmental or British Blue cattle that are renowned for yielding strong carcases. They mix and match with Limousin cows and a few native breeds to produce what the market clearly wants.
“The sale takes place over Wednesday and Thursday 14-15 October and all I would say is that if you’re looking for great cattle wherever you are in Yorkshire then you should come along, join in with the excitement and see what we mean about the quality.
“The first day we will sell between 500 and 600 cattle from six to 12-months-old; the second day slightly fewer numbers starting with the bulls and then the year olds.
“There are plenty of reasons to expect that this year’s prices should hold reasonably strongly for the suckled trade. Cereal prices being lower this year is leading to more farmers running on cattle for longer and the final price of beef is not suffering from imports as much as the sheep price has had to cope with.”
Prices holding up
A concern for all breeding sales is how fat lamb prices, which have been down by 10-25 per cent for months, will impact on the breeding stock trade.
After Wednesday’s lowland breeding sheep sale at Ruswarp, auctioneer Robert Smith was in a perfect place to comment.
“Our top price today was £140 for shearlings and we’d be happy with that. Overall I’d say the average was about £10-£12 per head down on last year but bearing in mind the current market prices for fat lambs I’d say that in comparison that’s not bad.
“Gimmer shearlings and the better breeding ewes were going at between £80-£110.”