Hogget values enjoy last hurrah as supplies fall

By Ian Ashbridge

 HOGGET VALUES have fought back this week as numbers begin to dwindle and the best sorts become harder to find, say auctioneers.

Average prices for England and Wales strengthened by nearly 10p/kg liveweight on the week, to 123.5p/kg. Spring lamb numbers are beginning to grow with just over 2000 head levelling at 156p/kg on Monday, Apr 11.

Auctioneers said many farmers, disillusioned with weaker hogget prices this spring, had sold to concentrate on doing better with the 2005 lamb crop.

 Trevor Simpson, sheep auctioneer at Hexham Market, Northumbria, said he expected hogget entries to tail off over the next fortnight. “Many buyers in this area are growing short on the better lambs. They”re having to come out and pay for them.”

Some producers felt they had waited too long for the hogget market to improve. “Prices have been lower all spring, and many farmers decided to cut their losses and get rid, as lowland flocks have scanned well and the weather has been reasonable.”

But Mr Simpson did not expect values to improve much further. “As hoggets grow fewer, it”s a good opportunity for abattoirs to wind down before they get into processing new season lambs.”

Poorer returns from hoggets this spring could still have a knock-on effect into breeding sheep and store lamb sales this autumn, he added. “With the single farm payment delayed until early 2006, will farmers have the funds to come out and buy sheep?”

 Peter Crichton, of Suffolk-based Hill Farm Sheep, said better exports had helped hogget prices recover. “I expect to be selling spring lambs in three to four weeks now. It”s been a good growing season in East Anglia.”

 Reduced hogget supplies were unlikely to cause buyers to seek imported lamb, he said. “It depends when the supermarkets decide to promote lamb, but they haven”t done so yet.”

And traders could expect to see some adjustment in prices at the autumn”s breeding sheep sales, reflecting poorer returns from hoggets. “Farmers will still buy breeding stock but will adjust down, also reflecting lower cull ewe prices in recent months.”

Mr Crichton said the pressure on producers” cashflows could take 10-15 a head from breeding ewe values, and put store lambs between 35 and 38 a head, about 5 a head below last year”s trade.

At Exeter Livestock Market, auctioneer Alan Venner said farmers could expect new season lamb values to firm in the next few weeks, once hogget competition was removed. Spring lambs were worth 140-142p/kg but could rise to about 155p/kg as demand grew, he said.


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