Lamb shortage means happy Xmas for upland farmers

There’s a hint of a shortage of prime lambs in the run-up to Christmas, suggesting prices are likely to firm in the coming weeks.

Deadweight averages jumped by 35p to 245p/kg over a 10-day period in early November and rumours that the bulk of New Zealand lamb exports could be heading for the Far East and not Europe is adding to producers’ confidence.

Scott Donaldson of Hexham Auction Mart in Northumberland said some pundits were hinting of a shortage of prime lambs before the end of the season.

“But for producers to get the best sustained returns from the market it’s more about how lambs are drawn and presented rather than simply supply and demand.

“Hit the spec and the buyers will pay. If the lambs are right we’re talking 110-120p/kg this week. But if they’re overweight or underweight, lacking finish and dirty they could be down to 90p,” said Mr Donaldson.

Northumberland farmer Mark Heron from Longframlington has been selling both conventional and organic lambs. He was confident the market would remain firm up to Christmas.

“Our conventional Texel and Suffolk cross lambs out of Mules have improved by about 17p/kg in the last few weeks and it looks as though the shortage of organic lambs is going to lift their price too.

“Deadweight organic prices should give us almost £60 a lamb next week – that’s up by £6 on the week,” said Mr Heron.

Taunton auctioneer Robert Venner said the lamb market was “on the up” with market averages of 110p/kg, putting about £2 a head on most lambs.