By RYAN TAYLOR
A NATIONAL shortage of livestock was behind a bumper weekend at the marts in Lerwick, with some prices reaching their highest level in over 20 years.
Chairman of Shetland Livestock Marketing Group Ronnie Eunson said last Saturday’s exceptional day of trading at the Lerwick marts came down to a drop in the overall numbers of cows and sheep.
In total 1,904 store lambs and 124 prime lambs were presented and demand proved to be high. All classes were dearer on the week before and more animals could have been sold.
Beef was also strong, with trade reaching levels never before seen at the marts.
Mr Eunson welcomed the high prices, which proved lucrative for many of Shetland’s producers.
But he warned the high cost of fuel and fertiliser meant livestock prices would have to remain consistently high if farmers and crofters were to continue to get a valuable return on their investment.
“I suppose there have been predictions that the market was going to improve but we didn’t expect any movement to be as significant as it was,” he told The Shetland Times this week.
“There does appear to be a national shortage of livestock as a consequence of changes in the subsidy regime where they went away from headage payments. There are less ewes about and less cows about.
“These things are not entirely predictable. We thought there would be a rise of maybe a fiver a head on commercial lambs like Suffolk lambs, but it appears some folk are seeing a rise of £10 to £12.”
Mr Eunson said cattle had seen “a phenomenal rise” in value, with some beasts now selling at £1,000 a head for store animals.
“One unusual feature that’s been this year is the fat prices on lamb and beef are running ahead of any expectations.
“In August and September we usually see the price slipping on lamb because there is too much of it on the marketplace.
“What appears to be happening is the price hasn’t slipped. It slipped and started to stabilise again at a level that a lot of finishers weren’t expecting.
“That means they’ve had to move into the market place to buy store animals when fat animals are still at a significantly high level, and the store prices are always tied to the fat price.
“The finishers try to purchase livestock, obviously with a margin in mind, and clearly they are buying into a market that’s short of livestock, so prices have moved to levels we’ve not seen for 20 to 30 years.”
He added the last time store lambs were selling at £40 per head would have been as far back as 1995.
Mr Eunson said he had been speaking to one producer who had to pay £420 a tonne for fertiliser, which he said would be “treble the price” since lambs were last fetching these prices.
“In the last 20 years costs have gone up hugely, and we had to wait for 2008 to see livestock prices at a level that would give some level of return to the producer.
“We’re still not catching up with European levels of prices, so the profitability for Shetland producers is still very minimal, and the concern is over how these levels are sustainable, and how there is going to be a stable market for the future.”
The news was also welcomed by local members of the farmer’s union.
Chairman of NFU Scotland’s Shetland branch Hazel Mackenzie said she was “really delighted” prices were creeping up.
“We feel better after the last few years that have been pretty awful. There is still a long way to go and if we could get a bit more we’d be even happier, especially as prices of production is still going to go up this winter. But it’s looking better and certainly heading in the right direction.”
• Leading prices per head for prime lambs – Suffolk cross: £60 South Gluss, Ollaberry; £59.50 Hammister, Symbister; £57 Gringischool, Ollaberry; £55.50 Breckon, Cullivoe.
Texel cross: £54 8 Glebe Park, Bressay.
Leading prices per head for store lambs – Suffolk cross: £46.20 Emohruo, Cullivoe; £46 8 Glebe Park, Bressay; £44.50 Setter, Bressay and Kerkira Ollaberry; £44.20 Aithsetter, Cunningsburgh and Kirkabister, Bressay; £44 Mousa Cottage, Leebitton; £43.80 Millburn, Bridgend, 55 North Road, Lerwick, Swona Crookatain; £43.20 Brough, Bressay; £43 Klettnahoull, Garth.
Texel cross: £45.80 8 Glebe Park, Bressay; £39 Kirkabister, North Nesting; £38.50 Glenburn, Ellister.
Cheviot: £52 Hillside, Bressay; £43 Hamar, North Mavine; £42.50 Braeview, Braewick; £42 New Grunnasound, Bridge End; £40 Mousa Cottage, Leebitton; £36 Rona, Ollaberry.
Greyface: £36 Klettnahoull, Garth.
Beef prices: Bullocks (38) sold to a top price per head of £950 for a 534kg Charolais cross from Messrs Sinclair, Glenlea, Rerwick. Top price per kilo was 189.3p for Hereford crosses from Mr Ritch, Gunnister, Uyeasound to average 164.8p for an average weight of 478kg.
Heifers sold to a top price per head of £845 for a pen of four Charolais crosses weighing 469kg, also from Glenlea, Rerwick which was the top price per kilo of 180.2p to average 155p for an average weight of 465kg.
Leading prices per head and per kilo – bullocks: 150-250kg Gunnister, Uyeasound (HFx) £380, 189.3p; 251-300kg Gunnister, Uyeasound (HFx) £460, 165.5p; 301-350kg Tirvister, Ollaberry (LMx) £520, 156.2p; 351-400kg Tirvister, Ollaberry (LMx) £560, 156p; 401-450kg Glenlea, Rerwick (CHx) £760, 168.9p; 451-500kg Glenlea, Rerwick CHx) £860, 183.8p, £840, (LMx); 501-550kg Glenlea, Rerwick (CHx) £950; Bigton Farm, Bigton (CHx) £935 (LMx) £875, 178.4p; 551-600kg Valima, Symbister (CHx) £920, 157.8p.
Leading prices per head – heifers: 201- 250kg Gunnister, Uyeasound (HFx) £310, 154.2p; 301-350kg Burnside, Williamsetter (Shetx) £410, 123.1p; 351-400kg Tirvister, Ollaberry (LMx) £600, 150.8p; 401-450kg Sumburgh Farm, Virkie (SMx) 151.3p £640, Emohruo, Cullivoe (LMx) 148.1p, £640 ; 451-500kg Glenlea, Rerwick (CHx) (LMx) £845, 180.2p; 501-550kg Sumburgh farm, Virkie £770, 145.3p.