Preparing for sales success

With spring hardly underway yet the autumn sales seem far away, but they have the potential to give excellent returns this year. The ability to achieve top prices will be determined by preparation in the months before, says Alister Davies, UK Beef & Sheep Manager.

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“The exceptional fat lamb trade in March this year will no doubt see many ewe hoggs destined for the autumn sales as yearlings get slaughtered,” says Alister Davies. “I would expect to see fewer breeding stock being presented at the sales this autumn.

“Simple supply and demand economics suggests therefore that we should see some excellent returns at this year’s autumn sales.”

Good growth and presentation are both key to achieving the best prices. “Looking at previous sales it’s very clear to see that the better grown and better presented animals are the ones that reach the highest prices. It’s therefore important to consider how you will invest in and prepare those animals for sale.”

Don’t neglect grazing

Don't neglect the quality and quantity of grazing available, he warns. “It’s important to remember that these sheep are still growing and need plenty of high-quality grazing in front of them. If you need any advice on this contact your local ForFarmers account manager or a member of the forage team.

“If the ewes or especially hoggs are rearing lambs, ensure that their lambs have access to a quality creep feed such as Ewbol Prestige Lamb from day one. This helps to avoid any condition loss on the hoggs.“

Also continue to feed the hoggs dry feed for longer than normal, again to avoid body condition loss. Wean their lambs as early as possible, targeting the 12-16 week of age window.”

Alister also advises that routine and topical worming and associated health plans are followed. “Sheep that have been vaccinated command a premium. Vaccinating against orf and footrot will help the hoggs thrive up to the point of sale. It is also worth considering investing in a full abortion vaccination programme so the prospective buyers can immediately put them to the ram should they so require.”

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Timely advice

Alister advises early shearing for ewe hoggs. “Losing their fleece promotes a growth spurt and doing that early means there is time for the fleece to grow back by September. The additional growth of the animal together with a fuller fleece means it will look visibly bigger in the sale ring.

Final stages

In the final six to 10 weeks, it is time to step up nutrition to boost condition of the animals destined for the sale ring. “In 2023 ForFarmers successfully trialled a new diet specifically designed to put condition and bloom on sheep destined for the autumn sales.” This Ewbol Breeder Pride is a specialist 6mm compound nut that is available from June to October.

“It can be fed to both female and male sheep where body condition is rapidly needed.” Typically fed up to 1kg per head per day, this high energy, high starch, mid protein diet has the additional benefit of Levucell.

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Levucell is a live yeast product that stabilises rumen pH, improves rumen health and increases daily live weight gain. It therefore helps the animal use all available nutrition to rapidly gain condition. “Levucell improves performance across all stages of production,” he adds. “Increased feed efficiency and improved growth across the board makes it well worth considering.

“Finally, colouring sheep is very much down to personal preference, but if you wish now is the time to do so.”

Investing in breeding sheep now - and in the weeks leading up to the sales - will pay dividends, he concludes. “With the circumstances as they are this year we are set for some promising prices at the early autumn sales. Don’t miss out on potentially excellent returns by being underprepared.”

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