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Take Advantage of Cull Ewe Marketing Seasonality
21/03/06

Free from the shackles of the obligatory Sheep Annual Premium retention period, English flocks have much to gain from planning culling and cull ewe finishing to take advantage of higher seasonal prices in the first half of the year, suggests the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

photo courtesy of www.jennifermackenzie.co.uk

mules

The latest annual auction market analyses showed a noticeable reduction in the traditional spring peak in cull ewe prices in 2005 as producers no longer had to wait until after mid-May to sell surplus ewes without endangering their subsidy entitlements.

However, there still remained an average weekly price advantage of £4/head for ewes marketed in the first six months of the year as against those sold in the final six months. Reflecting the established seasonality of cull ewe slaughterings, the peak average weekly price of nearly £39/head achieved in early May was a good 75% higher than the trough of under £22/head in mid-October.

Under these circumstances, flock returns could be boosted substantially by marketing ewes in the spring and early summer wherever possible rather than at the peak of national cullings in the autumn and early winter.

The extent to which appropriate culling and cull finishing policies will prove worthwhile depends upon good organisation, adequate control of over-wintering costs and effective marketing.

To maximise the benefits from planned culling and cull finishing, EBLEX advises producers to:

  • Base decisions on simple forward budgets of likely costs and extra returns;
  • Adhere to strict culling criteria for teeth, body condition, udders, reproduction and feet;
  • Identify barren ewes for early marketing through pregnancy scanning;
  • Use tags to ensure easy identification of ewes for culling;
  • Finish only healthy ewes offering good opportunities to improve condition;
  • Make the best use of forage crops and arable by-products;
  • Crutch ewes before folding onto forage crops;
  • Establish suitable local markets;
  • Select well-fleshed ewes for slaughter at fat levels of 2-3L to meet mutton specifications;
  • Present only clean ewes for slaughter; and,
  • Prepare even-sized lots for market wherever possible.


Detailed guidance on both culling ewes and finishing cull ewes is available free of charge to levy payers as part of the interactive EBLEX Better Returns Lamb Action for Profit resource at www.eblex.org.uk

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