Seasonal trend set to firm lamb prices

Lamb prices look set to continue to increase in the coming weeks, as a seasonal uplift begins.

The Muslim festival of Eid helped trade at Skipton last week, where 6,000 lambs were easily shifted, according to auctioneer Ted Ogden.

Prices were 15p/kg up on last year, however to maximise returns on prime lambs, Mr Ogden advised farmers to ensure lambs were not only well-fleshed but clean and with clipped bellies, ensuring hygiene laws are strictly adhered to.

“Those producers can expect the best market price on the day,” he said.

In Welshpool, auctioneer Jonathan Evans reiterated Mr Ogden’s advice to make sure there was plenty of meat on prime lambs.

A total of 5,293 head went through Welshpool this week, at an average of 175p/kg liveweight, he said. Both numbers and prices had been maintained since Eid, but he had concerns that the effect of lamb losses in the spring would start to show in the coming weeks.

Paul Heyhoe, analyst at EBLEX, said a fall of 5% this year in the Welsh lamb crop would not come as a shock when the figures for Wales were published in December. Northern Ireland and Scotland figures were also showing slightly lower numbers.

However, DEFRA figures for June released this week show a small rise on the number of sheep in England to 14.9m head – a 2% increase on 2012. This included a 0.5% rise in the number of new crop lambs.

Gordon McWhirter from marketing group Meadow Quality said he had seen more lambs through than ever during the summer in England, particularly outside of the North, in areas where the spring weather had not been so bad. Carcass weights were good, he added.

“We’re not getting the bigger lambs, as we’ve had in the past, but that doesn’t matter as we don’t want those as much,” he said.

This year would be better than last, said Mr Heyhoe. “We’re not going to see the market conditions of last year.” He expected the pattern of this winter to be more like 2011, where the seasonal uplift was seen in the run up to Christmas. In 2012, the run up to Christmas saw little price movement but this was likely to be a blip.

Eid saw liveweight prices rise by 10p/kg and they had stayed level due to a tighter market, said Mr Heyhoe. Prices were likely to be a record for the time of year, however producers’ costs were also much higher.

Finished lamb prices rose 13p/kg at Bakewell market in Derbyshire on Monday on lower numbers after storm warnings put vendors off committing stock.

Just over 1,700 lambs averaged 176p/kg to a brisk trade, with meated lambs in demand, regardless of weight, according to auctioneer Bagshaws.

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