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Strong prices see rush to auction; FARM & COUNTRY Prices rise across board on buoyant trading.

Byline: By ANDREW FORGRAVE Rural Affairs Editor

AUCTIONEERS hope the buoyant trading start to the year will continue into next month and could even boost the spring lamb trade.

Prime hoggets have been fetching more than pounds 90-a-head in some North Wales marts with averages pounds 10-pounds 15 up on this time last year.

And at Gaerwen's beef sale last Friday, all cattle sold for more than pounds 1,000-a-head.

The trade has sparked a rush to market which has knocked a few pence off prices but auctioneers say sales remain strong and should remain so for the rest of the month.

Morgan Evans auctioneer Simon Jones said the weakness of the pound against the euro was a critical factor in driving exports.

But shrinking sheep flocks both in the UK and New Zealand were also constricting supplies, he said.

"I was speaking to a couple of scanners who have been working in New Zealand and they said sheep numbers were down dramatically as farmers switch to dairy.

"Scanning rates there are also down because of the dry conditions they've been having."

Sheep numbers are also down in France after last year's bluetongue outbreak, while we numbers in Britain have been falling ever since the introduction of Single Farm Payments.

The trade has also been driven by retailers wanting to restock after the Christmas and New Year break.

Hogget prices at Gaerwen have peaked at pounds 86 and are averaging around I5op-i6op/kg, some 3op-4op up on last January. Ewe and lamb couples were also up pounds 2O-pounds 3O on last year, with singles doing especially well, while over-age cattle and seasonal store sheep were also on an upward curve.

At Ruthin hoggets have topped at pounds 93 and are averaging around pounds 55-pounds 60.

"Everything is selling well at the moment," said Ruthin auctioneer Glyn Owens.

"There are big numbers out of the supply side and there could be some trickle through to the spring lamb job."

The price rises cap a good year for livestock markets in which prime lamb throughput soared 27.8%, up from 5.4m to 6.9m.

Average new season lamb prices, at 13O.5op/kg, were 28% higher than in 2007. Old season lamb values were also up 16% and cull ewes numbers climbed 20%.

Finished steer averages were up 29%, with a similar rise for heifers' values.

Cull cow prices experienced the biggest rise, averaging 9ip/kg to stand 40% higher than the 2007 average.

Chris Dodds, of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, said: "In my opinion the live ring has been a price-setter rather than a price-taker over the last 12 months."

farming@dailypost.co.uk

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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 15, 2009
Words:449
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