Lamb producers in North Wales looking to hit premiums of 40p to 50p per kg are turning to the Beltex breed, the modern sheep for the modern market, as it fits the specifications of both the export buyer and the local butcher according to auctioneer, Glyn Owens.
Mr Owens has been in the profession since 1974 and after a spell working in Conwy, returned to Ruthin Farmers Auction Company in 1986 where he is now one of four partners in the business. Selling up to 7,000 lambs per week during the peak season in September and October, Glyn has seen a shift in breeding in recent years as producers look to meet the premium paid for Beltex-sired lambs.
“Buyers are looking for that top conformation, together with killing out percentage which makes them ideal for the local butcher. In saying that, we also have a Dutchman who comes and buys every week for the export market as the export men love those qualities too. For the butcher, the colour of the joint and fat marbling when you cut it for display makes them second to none. It really is the modern sheep for the modern market,” said Mr Owens.
“We find more and more of our farmers are changing to Beltex-sired lambs if it suits their farm, and we certainly see more Beltex-bred lambs coming through the market. Our producers take a lot of pride in bringing lambs out so if other producers see them go through and watch them top the mark week after week they soon change suit,” he added.
Like other centre round the country, Ruthin welcomed a very strong prime hogg trade during the first few months of 2020 with the best Beltex-sired lambs hitting 280p to 310p per kg, well ahead of the market average of 230p to 250p per kg.
The mart hosts two annual special shows and sales, at Christmas and at Easter, and it’s typically Beltex lambs securing the top tickets and going on to sell in excess of £300 per head, and Mr Owens is keep to point out the winning carcases at the Welsh Winter Fair are more often than not sired by Beltex rams.
The sale of pedigree rams and females in September is becoming increasingly popular too, thanks to pedigree breeders highlighting what the breed can do by selling their own prime lambs through the centre.
“We are very pleased that we have some members out there who sell at our pedigree sales and travel two to three hours to sell prime lambs here, such as Dafydd Lewis and Michael Owens, and they always get a premium. People get to see they type of lambs they breed and come back to buy rams in September.
“In the Ruthin area we have a lot of young, ambitious farmers aged 30-50 that sell through the Ruthin Mart and they definitely want quality. A good skin is very, very important to them and obviously the superior conformation is what the Beltex is all about, so they are willing to pay to secure quality breeding rams,” he added.
Mr Owens can’t just be found in the auctioneer’s box though as attendees of the 2008 Royal Welsh Show and Welsh Winter Fair would have seen him claim the pair of prime lambs championship at the former before going on to win the cattle championship at the latter. That same year, with lambs from his 120-strong commercial flock, Glyn won the prime lamb championship at 10 of the 11 shows he attended.