Store lambs in a pen at market© Tim Scrivener

Old season lamb (OSL) prices rose to record highs for the time of year last week as snow drifts almost halved hogg supply on Thursday (1 March).

Prices were already on the up in February, lifting from a January baseline of 182-186p/kg to 209.4p/kg before Storm Emma and “the beast from the east” cut throughput 44% at Great Britain’s marts, taking averages to 215.44p/kg for the week.

With many marts reporting 40-60% lower volumes on the week, prices are £7-£8 a head dearer across the board with some centres reporting averages over £100 a head.

See also: Fat lamb prices increase £10 per head in a month

The numbers

  • £18.49
    How much more a 44kg lamb was worth last week on the year according to LAA
  • 44%
    The week-on-week reduction in hogg throughput across Great Britain on Thursday, according to AHDB
  • 232.4p/kg
    The SQQ average at Thainstone on Thursday (1 March) for 2,436 hoggs
  • £10.42
    How much more a 44kg lamb was worth on the week at St Asaph on Thursday (1 March)

Iain Macdonald, senior economics analyst at Quality Meat Scotland, said that global shortages, export growth and lower imports had left lamb prices very firm in the first quarter.

“A lot of store lamb buyers probably failed to see a margin last year, but this year they enjoyed lower prices in the autumn and a rising market this year, whereas last year hogg trade flatlined,” he told Farmers Weekly.

Ayr market was 15p/kg dearer on the week at 221.7p/kg with medium lambs at 237.5p/kg on Monday (5 March). St Boswells saw volume down and averages up to 235p/kg SQQ (+22.4p/kg) as medium lambs made about £13 more on the week, lifting to £103.40 a head.

Meanwhile, on the same day Skipton records went tumbling as 4,010 OSL averaged a record £104.63 a head at 245.2p/kg. 

Bakewell sees £101.67 average

Bakewell’s Monday sales have been very strong but Bagshaws missed out on Thursday (1 March), having to cancel its Thursday sale as snow ground most of the Peak District to a halt.

Auctioneer Ivor Lowe said market forces were combining to result in an “astronomical” lamb trade, which many sheep feeders could not have imagined.

Trade averaged 242p/kg on Monday (5 March) as over 1,600 head levelled at £101.67.

“Nobody buying store lambs a few months ago would have expected that in their wildest dreams,” said Mr Lowe.

“I thought our numbers of lambs would be up given the trade we have but that is maybe an indication of how adverse weather is still affecting people.”

Truro lambs near £100

Small numbers of new season lambs (NSL) are meeting a trade similar to that of OSL at Truro market where prices continued to strengthen last week

Ross Collins, surveyor and auctioneer at Lodge and Thomas, says that bidders have been less selective when looking to secure lambs for the continent and have turned to buying lighter sorts (38kg-41kg).

“We have generally found people were willing to pay more for the heavier hoggs but more recently they have been prepared to pay a good price for the lighter ones, too,” he told Farmers Weekly.

Prime lambs averaged £99.50 a head across the board, with 28 NSL around 230p/kg at 45kg, with the dearest at 232p/kg at 44.6kg for £103.50 a head

However, some hoggs beat this on a per kilo basis, flying to 240p/kg at 40kg.

Mr Collins said trade has been strengthening since 10 January, with prices up 35p/kg to average 225p on Wednesday (28 February) with little idea as to when the NSL trade would kick off properly.