By Farmers Weekly staff

LOW numbers of new-season lambs coming forward are helping prop up hogget prices at up to £1/kg liveweight. Auctioneers expect this to continue throughout April.

Oswestry-based auctioneer John Brereton blames the lack of new-season lambs coming forward on a combination of poor prospects last year and the poor weather this year.

“Theyve lacked sun on their backs to bring them on,” says Mr Brereton.

While new-season lamb has been selling at an average of £1.42/kg liveweight, buyers are reluctant to switch over until numbers pick up.

MLC figures suggest just 12,000 were marketed live in the week to 14 April. “As soon as the number of new-season lambs rises, buyers will be waiting,” says Mr Brereton.

Abattoir deadweight trade is also static. Procurement manager John Bailey of Cullompton-based Lloyd Maunder says sales of new-season lamb havent kicked in.

“Demand from retailers isnt there and it could be three to four weeks before trade in new supplies take over.”

Supplies of new-season lambs over Easter were reaching £3/kg deadweight for 15-18kg carcasses, but with limited supplies and low demand, thats now come back to £2.60/kg, explains Mr Bailey.

For the immediate future hogget prospects look good. While poor weather is suppressing new-season supplies, it hasnt hindered hogget sales by increasing risk of dirty fleeces.

Yorkshire-based auctioneer Chris Clubley has seen hoggets finished off stubble turnips and sugar beet tops from local arable units continue to clear between 98-100p/kg liveweight. “Rejections for dirty fleeces are few and far between,” he reports.

Overall, prospects have been better for lamb finishers this season, adds Mr Clubley. “They bought well last year and theyll have some margin left if prices hold.”

MLCs sheep analyst Lesley Green expects demand for hoggets to continue and reports the latest average GB price was 98.64p/kg. With numbers coming forward still rising – liveweight sales are up 16% on the previous week – pressure for hoggets to be marketed before new-season sales begin in earnest is mounting.

  • New-season lamb prices at Kendal touched 162p/kg for Suffolk crosses on Monday. Further south at Crewe, prices averaged 124p/kg. The new-season SQQ was 130p/kg – down almost 23p/kg, reports MLC.