Drier, milder weather has at long last seen small shoots of grass grow, particularly south of the Border, and with it an increased demand for breeding sheep with lambs at foot.

But, while it has been one of the toughest lambing seasons on record, with disease and horrendous, wet weather seriously impacting lamb crops, those with breeding outfits to sell are reaping the rewards with values well up on the year.

While there have been few such sales in Scotland of any numbers, auctioneers are reporting an increased number of buyers looking to replenish breeding stocks when so many potential replacement females have been lost.

Add in the growing risk of TB in the south, and sheep are not only viewed as a cheaper, but also ‘safer’ investment.

“The breeding sheep market has been absolutely phenomenal,” said Harrison and Hetherington auctioneer, Rory Livesey, who pointed out that the firm’s sale on Monday saw a top price of £198 per life for a Beltex gimmer with Beltex lambs at foot.

“People who are tight stocked and don’t have the grass are cashing in on the good trade and those who have the grass are looking to replenish stocks when there have been a lot of losses at lambing,” he said.

Such was the trade at Monday’s sale that Mr Livesey said young ewes and lambs were making £120-£160 per life depending on the age and the quality – up £20 per head on the year. Older, broken mouthed ewes were on a par with 2023 values at £85-£90 per life with twins and up to £110 with singles.

Hoggs also met a buoyant trade selling to £140 per life for Texel crosses.

“Sheep have been a great trade all year and when there are more areas being hit with TB restrictions, they are a safer investment especially when buying store cattle requires a lot more outlay,” said Mr Livesey.

Further south at CCM’s Skipton Auction Mart earlier in the week, averages were again up when 562 head of ewes and lambs sold to a £355 per outfit for Texel ewes with twins, while gimmers with twins reached £340.

Cheviots with twin Texel lambs were topped at £345 and with singles to £250 and £230 while Mules with twin lambs reached £340.

Suffolk ewes with twins reached £330 and with singles, £250. Suffolk and Mule averages per life averaged £110 and £95 respectively.

This compares to CCM’s sale earlier in the month when ewes with twins averaged £267.64, with gimmers and twin lambs cashing in at £283.93 and ewes with single lambs at £216.04.

However, while breeding sheep have been a roaring trade, prime hoggs slipped on the week with many of the early live auction marts of this week falling as much as 30-40p per kg. Trade is nevertheless significantly higher on the year, with the deadweight average cashing in at 860.5p – up almost 10p per kg on the previous week and 150p ahead of the same time in 2023.