Tim Tyne’s Tips

For pur­chasers, many sheep sales come too late, so why isn’t there more farm to farm trad­ing, asks Tim Tyne

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month -

Sales time for sheep

SEPTEM­BER SEES sheep sales in full swing as the ma­jor­ity of breed­ing stock comes on the mar­ket around this time. Some of the low­land breed so­ci­eties will al­ready have held their of­fi­cial sales in Au­gust and the hill sheep may hold off un­til well into Oc­to­ber, but Septem­ber re­mains the busiest time as ewes and rams are pur­chased now in prepa­ra­tion for Oc­to­ber mat­ing to give con­ven­tional March born lambs.

Ven­dors tend to favour later sales, par­tic­u­larly for rams, as it gives the an­i­mals more time to ma­ture, thus mak­ing them look far more mas­cu­line and im­pres­sive in the ring. Ewes will also have grown a bit more fleece and so will look a lit­tle larger if they are pre­sented at a later sale. How­ever, from a pur­chaser’s point of view (and from a sheep health per­spec­tive), the ma­jor­ity of sales are too late as they don’t en­able buy­ers to quar­an­tine in­com­ing stock for a suf­fi­cient length of time be­fore join­ing them with the hold­ing’s ex­ist­ing flock for breed­ing pur­poses.

The prob­lem could be solved by farmto-farm trad­ing of live­stock that can be car­ried out in­de­pen­dently of any auc­tion­eers’ cal­en­dar and has nu­mer­ous other ben­e­fits, but for many ven­dors the sale ring is their shop win­dow, giv­ing them an op­por­tu­nity to dis­play their an­i­mals be­fore a large au­di­ence in an at­tempt gain wide­spread recognition as a breeder of top qual­ity stock. For pur­chasers, too, the auc­tion mar­ket has its ad­van­tages as com­par­isons be­tween an­i­mals from dif­fer­ent sources can eas­ily be made when they are all penned up side-by-side on one day.

What can be done?

With­out a ma­jor groundswell shift within the wider sheep in­dus­try, I can’t see much chance of any­thing hap­pen­ing soon, although en­cour­ag­ing noises are be­ing made in the right quar­ters. In the mean­time, here are a few things that you could be do­ing:

Make sure that you record the de­tails

of ev­ery­one who has pur­chased breed­ing sheep from you in the past, so that you are able to mail­shot them with reg­u­lar up­dates and de­tails of forth­com­ing stock for sale well in ad­vance of the sale sea­son. How­ever, be aware that new GDPR leg­is­la­tion may limit what in­for­ma­tion you are al­lowed to keep and what use you can make of it.

Find out from other ven­dors and pur­chasers whether they would sup­port ear­lier sales in your area/of your breed, oth­er­wise you might just be a lone voice in the wilder­ness.

If you are a member of a breed so­ci­ety, put pres­sure on them to bring for­ward the dates of their of­fi­cial an­nual sales. Bear in mind, though, that you may be deal­ing with peo­ple with par­tic­u­larly en­trenched views on the mat­ter, so be pre­pared for con­sid­er­able re­sis­tance. Per­se­vere and even­tu­ally you may be­gin to see some re­sults.

Speak to your lo­cal auc­tion­eers. They may al­ready be hold­ing ear­lier sales that you are un­aware of. If not they may be pre­pared to hold an ear­lier sale pro­vided you can con­vince them that it will be sup­ported.

Con­sider start­ing your own sale. Sev­eral large-scale breed­ers have suc­cess­fully held an an­nual sale ei­ther at their own farm or at a lo­cal mar­ket. How­ever, for this to be worth­while you need to have a lot of an­i­mals. You also need to have some kind of USP to draw in the cus­tomers. If you have been a con­sis­tent winner on the show circuit that may help to gen­er­ate suf­fi­cient in­ter­est. Oth­er­wise, per­for­mance re­lated data could be used as a sell­ing point, as could nov­elty value, such as in the case of a newly im­ported or re­cently de­vel­oped breed. If you don’t have enough sheep to jus­tify hold­ing your own stand­alone sale then think about join­ing forces with other breed­ers who have sim­i­lar aims and ob­jec­tives. The sale could be hosted by which­ever of you has the most ap­pro­pri­ate lo­ca­tion, with re­gard to ac­cess, parking, etc. You will also need to dis­cuss is­sues such as li­cens­ing an­i­mal move­ments onto and off the site and bio-se­cu­rity with your lo­cal au­thor­ity. It may take sev­eral years for a new sale to gain recognition and sup­port, so be pre­pared for some ini­tial dis­ap­point­ment. Per­se­vere and you will be re­warded.

Make max­i­mum use of so­cial me­dia for pro­mo­tion and mar­ket­ing.

Septem­ber is the busiest time for sales of breed­ing sheep

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