26 March 1999

New-season lambs reaching £50 mark

NEW-SEASON lamb prices are providing some cheer for farmers at a time when pig and cattle values are still in the doldrums.

Cornwall farmer Jeremy Hosking saw a batch of his make 280p/kg dw last week. "I was happy with that because a month or so ago, I was expecting about 240p," he says. "If it hits the 300p-mark, I will be delighted."

At about 19kg dw, the lambs are now topping £50, providing some compensation for the poor beef business, says Mr Hosking.

Auctioneer Bob Mosley at Truro, Cornwall, says £50 is an important psychological point. Confidence is high and people are upbeat about the prospects through to June or July, he says. "It is looking very healthy.

"What we do not want, though, is for the trade to overcook itself. We want a steady climb."

Auctioneer Ashley Ward has also seen more buoyancy in the sheep business at Guildford, Surrey, where the first spring lambs were seen this week. "The mood is pretty good."

Easter demand and limited numbers should keep trade firm, he says. But it could weaken in the couple of weeks after Easter, with hoggets still plentiful and some buyers reluctant to switch to new-season sheep.

&#8226 At auction marts in England and Wales on Monday, lambs averaged 135p/kg lw. &#42