Deadweight lamb prices fall as EU export demand drops

Lacklustre demand for lamb in Europe and higher throughputs at abattoirs have put pressure on finished lamb prices.

The GB deadweight SQQ fell 39p/kg on the week and 54p/kg since the beginning of July to average 592.2p/kg for the week ending 22 July.

Demand for UK lamb exports at Rungis International Market in Paris has reportedly reduced during the summer months.

See also: Farmers Fresh Wales expands lamb trade with Polderlam

Wholesale UK lamb carcasses averaged €8.50/kg (£7.28/kg) at Rungis for the week ending 22 July, down 5% on the previous week.

Industry reports suggest the hot weather is affecting retail sales on the Continent and a stronger sterling is also making UK exports more expensive by comparison.

In Scotland, prices were back this week with a base of 570p/kg deadweight to 590p/kg, according to Livestock marketing group Farmstock. However, there was still similar demand reported to last year.

Throughputs for the deadweight GB SQQ were up 6.6% on the previous week, totalling 48,500 head. This was the highest weekly throughput so far this year and was 53% higher than the same week last year.

Auction markets

New-season lambs averaged 260.86p/kg liveweight at UK auction markets for the week ending 25 July, down 6p/kg on the week.

Auctioneers say demand is still there for larger, well-finished lambs, but prices for lighter lambs have taken a hit in recent weeks.

Some farmers are reportedly bringing lambs too early to get ahead of seasonal price declines. However, auctioneers are urging farmers to ensure lambs are well finished to attract the highest prices.

Trade at Thirsk Auction Mart last week was still fairly strong, with an average of 277p/kg liveweight.

Auctioneer Emma Coupland said there was a larger, more mixed show of lambs forward, which was met with a slightly more resistant trade alongside the national trend.

“The heaviest, well-fed lambs enjoyed the best of the trade, as plenty of pens exceeded the £150 barrier, and pen after pen made £140 plus,” she added.

At Ludlow Market this week, lambs averaged 269p/kg liveweight, with a top price of £159 a head.

Michael Thomas, auctioneer at Ludlow, said the lamb trade seemed to have found its level, but best-quality export types were still making 275-301p/kg liveweight.

Store lambs averaged £78 a head at GB auction markets, down £5 a head on week-earlier levels.

Lower carcass weights

Analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) found lower carcass weights are limiting production volumes despite throughputs climbing during the first half of the year.

Defra figures show that prime lamb slaughterings have been strong so far in 2023.

HCC data analyst Glesni Phillips said: “More than 5.9 million lambs have been processed at UK abattoirs so far this year, up 4% (251,400 head) on 2022, and 6% ahead of the five-year average.”

Carcass weights have averaged 20.1kg so far in 2023, down 0.5kg on the same period last year.