1 August 1997

Late lift for lightweights

DEMAND for lightweight lambs, traditionally heavily dependent on the export trade, is getting a boost from buyers seeking early-season stores.

Stuart Bell, auctioneer at Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria, saw an average price of 126p/kg last week, up 20p up on the previous week.

Short supplies have been a factor as farmers crack on with shearing and haymaking. But its farmers looking for store lambs who are temporarily bolstering the trade, he says.

"Exporters paying 120p/kg for lambs under 28kg are not making much out of the job.

"There is a limited market for lightweight lambs for the UK market, but theres a strong demand for lightweights being bought as stores.

"Stock farmers with ample grass who would normally be buying in store cattle are turning to lambs. The main north country store sale season is still several weeks away, but the lightweight sales are providing one way of turning grass into cash," says Mr Bell.

Mason Weir, Dowthwaite Head, Matterdale, has been selling around 40 lambs a week through Kirkby Stephen drawn from his 1100 Swaledale and Herdwick ewes.

"We have been selling since the end of May and drawing lambs between 26 and 30kg. Prices have been up on last year with Swaledale wethers making up to £37.38 last week," said Mr Weir.

About 250 lambs have so far been sold from Jonathan Dixons Swaledale flock at Rakehead Farm near Kirkby Stephen. "We prefer to sell as many on the lightweight markets as we can, but this seasons trade has been very variable ranging from 98p to 124p/kg."n