THE switch-over of the supermarkets to spring lamb now seems imminent, but numbers and prices remain below those of a year ago.
At Exeter, auctioneer Allan Venner says numbers are "just beginning to come out". The 2200 lambs sold on Monday (down almost 800 on the same time last year) made an average of 134p/kg.
"In previous years, we have seen a double peak in prices," says Mr Venner. "First at Easter, and then when the supermarkets move across to lambs. But this year, it may be flatter all through."
The switch-over to spring lambs is also expected very soon by Maurice Wall at Highbridge. On Monday, he noticed farmers trying to sell as many hoggets as possible.
"Trade for lambs in the south west has been very erratic," he says. "In previous years we have seen it go down, rather than up from this time, but this year, with the supermarkets coming in later, it could pick up."
But caution is expressed by Paul Eke at Oakham where, this week, lambs outnumbered hoggets. "Demand may increase when the supermarkets come in," he says, "but when it comes to prices, they like to call the tune." *