22 August 1997

Lamb prices keep on falling

LAMB prices dropped early this week, scuppering farmers hopes that values had reached their seasonallow.

The England and Wales average was 109.51p/kg on Monday, down nearly 6p on the week.

"Hot weather has meant killing-out percentages are lower, so buyers are looking to get lambs cheaper," says Gloucester auctioneer Gavin Loynes.

Helping prop up values, however, has been the buoyant store trade. This has encouraged farmers to offer lighter animals as stores, limiting marketings of finished sheep, says Mr Loynes.

Auctioneer John Hanson at Skipton, N Yorks, says with marketings set to increase, values could come under further pressure over the next couple of months – "particularly if lots of heavy lambs are offered".

But with those between 38kg and 42kg making as much as 46kg ones, theres no incentive to get them too heavy, says Mr Hanson.

Robin Nettleton, who sells at Bridgnorth, Shropshire, says prices will now "yo-yo", in response to changes in the numbers on offer, the weather, the exchange rate and the store trade.

"But farmers should market lambs when they are at their best condition – and at the optimum weight of between 38kg and 41kg."

Heavier than this and they are above the "cut-off" point for export demand he says.n