11 February 2000

Lamb averages crack £1/kg

LAMB market averages crossed the £1/kg barrier and continue to gain strength as numbers tighten.

Some auctioneers had expected the rise to draw in more stock which is currently being finished off roots and stubbles, but in many areas that has not been seen. According to MAFF slaughter statistics about 22,000 fewer lambs are being sold each week compared with last year.

On Monday, markets recorded a SQQ of 102p/kg, well ahead of 74p/kg at the same point last year.

But the marked difference between medium (39.1-45.5kg) and heavy (45.6-52kg) sorts means some finishers are losing out by allowing lambs to get overweight.

"Its the law of diminishing returns," warns auctioneer Peter Crichton.

Using this weeks initial figures from the Meat and Livestock Commission for GB markets, the difference between a 45kg lamb at 103p/kg and a 46kg lamb at 97.6p/kg would be £1.46 a head. "Its not always practical to draft lambs in big groups on roots, but it may pay some to do it," he adds.

Cull ewe prices have also improved with bigger sorts averaging £29.15 a head – lighter entries are back at £16.75 each.

Confidence in the prime market has helped support a flourishing trade for ewe and lamb couples with better bred pairs making up to £30 a life, but smaller hill breeds down to about £15 a life.

However, the first entries of new season lambs in the south west averaged £1.10/kg; the gap between hoggs hardly justifying the extra effort of lambing flocks early, say auctioneers. Values should improve as numbers rise. &#42