Southern farms draw hard as lambs make £140

High creep costs and challenging production conditions mean lamb supply is tipped to be tight this summer as farmers in the South West sell lighter lambs ahead of the next Muslim festival.

Heavy, well-fleshed lambs should earn premiums over the next month while farmers limit creep intakes, which is being quoted at £330-£350/t.

Paul Ashton of Greenslade Taylor Hunt said more lambs had been sold at 37-39kg this year. This is removing at least 1-2kg of meat per lamb and further tightening supply.

See also: Strong market sales for new-season lamb – QMS

During the three weeks to 20 May, lamb slaughterings dropped back 5-7% on the year at 190,000-200,000 head, according to AHDB figures, despite lambs being worth £8-£10 more on the year.

Lamb supply was being limited by:

  • Last year’s heatwave causing ewes to scan poorly, with more empty and single-bearing ewes – some suggest many spring lambs coming forward are fast-growing single lambs
  • A cold, wet March meant higher mortality rates at lambing, so fewer lambs will come from later-lambing flocks
  • Growth rates were challenged by cold weather, possibly delaying supply by up to two weeks in some areas
  • Creep is expensive, and is being cut back in some systems, slowing growth rates.

“If the price falls back, I think farmers will opt to take lambs to higher weights,” said Mr Ashton.

“A lot depends on the summer we have. But at £130, even lambs at 35-36kg are making a good return. If they start coming to £100, marketing strategies might change.”

Chris Clapham of Stags at South Molton Market said creep prices were a major worry for lamb producers in his area.

He said the Eid-al-Adha festival falls on 28 June this year. Mr Clapham added: “We normally see a bounce in trade for two weeks before the festival. My gut feeling is trade will stay fairly strong until then.”