SHEEP producers have been urged to plan ahead to avoid autumn cashflow problems.

The English Beef and Lamb Executive has issued its advice now that ewe premiums will no longer be paid.

These used to arrive in plenty of time to help fund ewe replacement and store lamb purchases but, this year, the peak cash requirements will have to be generated by stock sales.

The most recent Eblex costings for lowland flocks show this may not be easy. On average, drawings to cover fixed costs absorb about 61pc of the income generated by every English lamb sold, with seasonal demands for variable and flock replacement costs taking a further 35pc.

Assuming uninterrupted lamb sales between June and September, the average business will thus have only just enough funds remaining from finished and store lamb sales to buy ewe replacements to replenish a fifth of the flock.

"Any slippage in the sales pattern could be extremely damaging for cashflow, requiring significant extra borrowings for large flocks, in particular," said Chris Lloyd, Eblex Better Returns Project manager.

"Even with low interest rates, this extra cost could easily be the difference between profit and loss for average flocks with low net margins.

"While top-third performing flocks may not face such critical problems, ensuring sufficient lamb sales early enough in the autumn will be equally important for their business health."

Eblex advises flock owners to plan their grassland management and stocking very carefully this summer to maximise lamb growth rates, setting out simple budgets with clear targets for sales through to the early autumn, and monitoring performance closely.

It stresses it is always prudent to sell lambs as soon as they are ready, as holding back in an uncertain market can be costly.

To help producers brush-up their selection for slaughter skills, the Eblex Better Returns Programme is running workshops and demonstration days across England. Details are available on 0870 241 8829 or