29 December 1995

LAMBS

LAMB prices in 1996 are likely to be similar or slightly above the levels of the last 12 months.

A decline in the size of the breeding flock, combined with limited prospects for improved lambing percentages, is expected to prompt a drop in the lamb crop of about 200,000 compared to this years 21m head figure.

And spring values should also be boosted by the shortage of pork expected at that time.

But a high carry-over of hoggets, combined with imports of New Zealand product and lower French prices, will limit the extent of any increase.

The traditional April peak, predicts the MLC, will be between the 1995 peak of 128.5p/kg and 1994s top price of 146.7p/kg.

After that, values are again expected to decline seasonally, though the August low-point is likely to be above this years 87.5p/kg-level.

Prices began to climb earlier this season than usual, with values topping the 100p/kg-mark in September compared to November in 1994.

A decline in throughputs, combined with strong export demand, could prompt a similar pattern in 1996. The forage situation at the time will, however, be important.

Ewe cullings, meanwhile, are expected to fall to 1.85m from 1995s historically high 2.4m total.

Mutton exports will, therefore, be lower. But a rise in clean sheep exports will offset this, keeping the total at about 143,000t.