By John Burns
A ROARING trade for all types of sheepmeat has brought out early lambs at lighter weights than usual and speeded up the end-of-season clear-out of tail-end hoggets.
Even the ewe hogg flocks intended for breeding are being raided for spares not needed to meet quota.
Auctioneers suggest the exceptional trade is largely due to shortages, possibly boosted by the search for alternatives to beef both here and abroad.
And the general feeling is that, though the current extraordinary prices are unlikely to last many weeks, the underlying market must stay firm for some time because the hoggets are almost finished and early lamb crops were generally below average.
Lamb quality up
Mondays GB new season lamb standard quality quotation (SQQ) was up 8.7p on the week at 207.83p/kg. And though the hogget SQQ was 11.93p down at 173.59p/kg, the drop was more due to variable quality than to demand.
At Welshpool on Monday 1600 lambs averaged 212p/kg, despite many being sold a month early about 30kg and very lean. The 1100 hoggets, "probably the last of them and not very good quality", averaged 179p/kg.
"There were some exceptionally good lambs and not many of them from indoors," said Clive Roads at Ludlow, Shropshire, where over 600 head averaged 224p/kg, with a top of 242p/kg.
Hoggets, meanwhile, averaged 186p/kg. "There are not many left now and quality is very variable. Good meaty sorts made 70p to 80p/kg more than the tailenders," said Mr Roads.
At Yeovil, Somerset, Lester Williams reports "unbelievable" prices for hoggets, with 650 averaging 186p/kg on Monday. Though quality is variable, he still has some vendors only just into their main draw.
A number of ewe hoggs were sold at Highbridge, Somerset, as vendors decided £80-plus now was better than risking the breeding market later. Overall hogget average was 191p/kg, and nearly 800 good quality lambs averaged 213p/kg with a top price of £97.
At Lancaster, Gary Capstick found prices down on the week but he is confident the drop was due to quality rather than a market trend.
Lambs averaged 197.5p/kg (204p/kg last week) because too many had been drawn at 30 or 31kg and were not of the quality buyers wanted. His hogget average slipped from 190p to 174p, again on quality.
Hogget quality was also very mixed at Cockermouth, Cumbria, where prices averaged 175p/kg (25p down on the week). Good export types were making up to 200p/kg. *