Liveweight lamb prices have continued to rise this week, with markets reporting a brisk trade, according to AHDB Beef and Lamb.
Figures for the week ending 11 March, show the GB old-season lamb (OSL) liveweight SQQ up by 4p to average 242.8p/kg on the previous week.
The higher price was achieved despite an increase in throughput of 4,800 head, which took the total across the seven days to 111,700 head.
See also: 7 ways to help hit lamb growth targets
AHDB analyst Hannah Clarke said the trade was reportedly brisk at the moment, with well-presented lambs attracting the premiums.
Bakewell market, in Derbyshire on 12 March, was typical of the buoyant trade.
Auctioneer Bagshaws reported 782 sheep sold, including 476 finished hoggs, 120 cull sheep and 186 store lambs.
“Despite several lots being end of season, last draw types, meated sorts were still very much in demand, with three pens more than 265p/kg to peak at 269p/kg,” a Bagshaws’ spokeman said.
The best heavyweight lambs grossed more than £128 a head, with an overall market average of 238.91p/kg.
The 120 cull sheep on offer also attracted very brisk bidding for all types, with top prices of £175 a head for Texels, £115 for Mules and horned ewes to £88, said Bagshaws.
The overall average for cull ewes was £83.33.
While liveweight prices lifted, the deadweight GB OSL SQQ plateaued in the week ending 7 March, after its recent rise.
Prices increased by just 0.6p compared with figures from a week earlier to average 530.9p/kg.
However, the price is still about £1/kg up on the same week last year and on the five-year average, Ms Clarke said.
As with liveweight, throughput for deadweight was up on the week, with an estimated increase of 3,800 head to total 208,000 head.
However, these weekly increased numbers are still down on 2019 throughputs.
During February 2020, there were 835,600 lambs forward – about 70,000 fewer than 12 months earlier.
Ewe numbers at 119,500 head were also back year-on-year at 17,000 head down.
Rebecca Wright, red meat analyst for the AHDB, said the lower ewe headage was not surprising because the kill at the same stage in 2019 was relatively high.
“Lamb carcass weights were back slightly, which is also not surprising considering the poor pasture conditions over winter,” said Ms Wright.
Meanwhile, fears that the coronavirus crisis would see New Zealand sheepmeat exports diverted from China to Europe have been allayed.
“So far, at least, the diverted product has mainly headed towards the Middle East,” reported Ms Wright.
To date, this year’s imports have actually been lower, Ms Wright added.
However, she said it would be premature to suggest that there was no chance of additional product coming to Europe, although the quantity involved may be limited.
“An issue not just affecting the sheep industry, but almost all industries, is shipping container availability.
“Chinese ports are still somewhat backlogged.
“This means containers are not being emptied and therefore not available for use again,” she suggested.