Bryan Robinson
Auctioneer, Melton Mowbray Market

The early part of the spring lamb season can often be a bit like the curate’s egg – good in parts. This year is no different. Meat is invariably what buyers are demanding and the only real way to consistently produce this in May is with additional feed.

This week’s sale saw 25% more lamb offered in Melton compared with the same week last year, with the SQQ average also up 3.8p/kg. The top price, however, was down 5p/kg on the year.
Why? Well, two main reasons. The first is that despite a fantastic lambing for many, the weather has been wet and warm the past few weeks. Lush grass as far as the eye can see, but it’s all full of water.

The best grass is said to be nearest the ground and this has not been what this year’s lambs have been offered. The other problem is that fewer people seem inclined to creep feed their lambs this season due to the cost of feed.

Five years ago I advised a customer that the best place to sell his barley was inside some bullocks. With barley this week at £119/t and lamb creep at £360/t, maybe home milling is the way forward?

A few February lambs have been coming in recently, but there are fewer people lambing in February near us. The cost of lambing in December with the returns of lambing in March is how it was summed up to me.

Hogg numbers are also having a very direct effect on the lamb trade, and this year, for the first time in several years, the main processors are still sourcing old-season sheep at the end of May.
Trade for these this week is down 2.4p/kg on the same week last year. Although we have been mouthing the hoggs here for some weeks, there has not been the difference in trade that has been seen in recent years. Whitehall agrees the issue of erupted incisors is an unnecessary burden on the industry, but we are stuck with it until next year at the earliest.

Trade for cull sheep is sharply on the rise again. We saw a top call of £141 this week. Although the euro can be held responsible for some of the fluctuations in the lamb and hogg trade, the same cannot be said with cull ewes. These are sold entirely for the home market.

If the weather dries up, prospects look good for sheep trade going forward. Having said that, in order to fend off the Aussie imports we may need to see the price stabilised and maintained at a consistent level while also juggling with the European currency.
Sounds simple enough. But to make your product sought-after, get some feed into your sheep.

Trade Talk, in association with the Livestock Auctioneers Association, brings you a weekly round-up of ringside trade from auctioneers across the country