Early lamb finishers taking a tilt at the Easter market might have expected the lateness of this year’s festival to have given lambs an extra week or so of growth – but the first lambs on offer have been a mixed bag, say traders.

Prices at most marts have ranged from 120-200p/kg but returns at the top end of the trade are better than last season.

January-born lambs forced to cope with the harsh weather conditions of the late winter have been light on the ground.

Most of the higher value lambs have been intensively reared indoors.

Lancs sheep producer Robert Towers proved that even the higher costs of finishing indoors can reap rewards.

At two north-west markets last week he took championship places with pure-bred Charollais lambs.

At his local market, Bentham, he took the top award with a single lamb weighing 40kg that sold for £150, while at Skipton his pen of three lambs averaging 47kg made £114 apiece.

“Indoor lambs have done well but anything outside has found it hard.

We’ve had to put creep feeders out for February-born lambs because the weather has been so bad and there’s no grass,” Mr Towers said.

Barbers auctioneer Bernie Hutchinson at Market Drayton, Shropshire, says the quality of the 250 lambs at the market’s Easter show varied, but buyers were favouring the best outdoor-reared lambs and giving 180-250p/kg.

“Good lambs, well suckled at 38-40kg and carrying some flesh, sold well.

But the more indifferent types reared inside ranged from 130p-160p/kg,” he said.

Uttoxeter market supporters gathered at the mart’s temporary home of Derby with almost 100 spring lambs offered.

Auctioneer Alastair Sneddon said buyers were selective, preferring to avoid over-finished types.

“There was a fine line between those lambs that were just right and those a bit too good.”

Topping the entry at 290p/kg was the champion 37kg Charollais-cross lamb from the Wilson family of Newclose Farm, Hollington, bought by the judge, retail butcher Nigel Browne.

Overall, 32-39kg spring lambs averaged 188p/kg with lighter types levelling at 192p/kg.

ian.ashbridge@rbi.co.uk