Lamb prices hit by foot and mouth outbreak

Finished lamb prices have been hit hard by the disruption that followed the recent foot and mouth outbreak

Although animal movements to slaughter have resumed and more than 100 abattoirs can now operate under licence, export restrictions have left processors struggling with fewer outlets for sheepmeat and skins.

Hit harder than beef

Average deadweight prices have fallen about 15p/kg since the first outbreak of the disease near Guildford, Surrey.

Richard Phelps of processor Southern Counties Fresh Foods said the trade for lambs had been hit harder than beef.

Availability issues

“About one-third of our lambs are exported. But the availability of lamb is also an issue as no collection centres or auction marts can operate.”

Mr Phelps said it was “realistic” to expect exports to resume in late August or early September.

Had to pay less

“But it’s unlikely we will get a true valuation until mid-September,” he added. 

Southern Counties had paid 250-255p/kg for R3L lambs before FMD struck but had since had to pay less and Mr Phelps said it was possible prices could be between 220-235p/kg next week.

Diverted to pet food

He estimated the foot-and-mouth crisis would cost the processor £80-100,000 in its abattoir alone.

Beef prices have remained relatively unaffected as abattoirs had stored hides and offals that would have been exported have been diverted into pet food.

Seasonal dip

However, a seasonal dip in demand for beef has left R4L steers worth 195-200p/kg in southern England. 

Average deadweight pig prices have remained stable at about 109p/kg but traders expect values to suffer due to several lost slaughtering days and imported pigmeat purchased by retailers to fill the gap.

Incurring deductions

Coupled with this, finished pigs will have continued to put on up to 1kg a day, pushing many over processors’ weight restrictions and incurring deductions.

Independent consultant Peter Crichton said that without exports cull sow prices had slipped 40% to just 40p/kg deadweight.

Soaring costs

The crisis had come at the same time as producers were facing soaring energy and feed costs, he added.

Keep up with the latest foot and mouth stories with FWi’s special report.