28 August 1998

Lambs decline 18% on 1997

LAMB prices have tumbled, in the face of lower skin values.

Mondays average at auction was 93p/kg lw, as values failed to recover any of the previous weeks losses. That left them about 18% lower than 12 months ago.

Contributing to the drop, says the Meat and Livestock Commission, have been the economic problems in Russians, leaving buyers there paying about £2 apiece less for sheepskins.

But dont hang on to stock in the hope of higher prices, advises MLC chairman Don Curry. "Market lambs as soon as they are ready and consider supplementary feeding to get them to the required specification.

"Lambs are late finishing this year due to bad weather and there has been a slaughtering shortfall of 100,000 so far. That means there are 10% more lambs still on farms compared with this time last year."

Auctioneer Robin Nettleton at Bridgnorth, Salop, says a few farmers are "corning" sheep, in a bid to improve quality. Some of the top-notch consignments are, he says, consistently making above the 100p/kg-mark. "Thats money. Thats a world apart from those which are just gradeable."

It is a difficult one to call as to which way prices will go now, says Mr Nettleton.

But many of those farmers who have already marketed this years animals are breathing a sigh of relief. "Im glad to have sold them early," says Jeremy Hosking, Tresillian, Cornwall. &#42