Spring lamb prices hold firm as numbers remain down

Spring lamb prices have stayed relatively firm over the past week as auction numbers struggle to recover in many areas.

Overall throughputs this week were 23% lower than the same time last year, with GB average prices firming slightly in response, AHDB meat services said. The finished lambs SQQ for week-ended 1 June was 208p/kg liveweight, up just over 2p/kg on the week and 4.5p/kg above the same week in 2009.

In contrast, average hogget prices were down almost 9p/kg on last week at 163p/kg, although that was still slightly ahead of this time last year.

Highlighting the firm new season prices, McCartneys reported very strong lamb trade at its Bank Holiday (31 May) sale in Ludlow. Some 2,700 finished sheep went under the hammer, with prices for standard home-trade lambs averaging 215p/kg and export quality lambs nearer 226p/kg. Quality was at a “marked premium” the firm said.

There was a similar picture at Ashford, Kent, where prices for the 1500 spring lambs sold held up well at just over £2/kg, which was comparable with this time last year, auctioneer Elwyn Davies said.

Standard 32-39kg lambs averaged 201p/kg, although he said there was quite a range in prices from almost 230p/kg for the best well-fleshed types down to 156p/kg.

The spring lamb trade had been slow to get started in Scotland due to the legacy of the prolonged winter, Brian Ross from Lanark market said. Prices for the few new season lambs sold this week averaged just under £2/kg. “There just isn’t enough throughput yet.”

Old-season hogg trade was still fairly strong, although demand was falling as more meat processors started to switch to new-season supplies. Hogg prices were similar to the previous week at an average of about 161p/kg, up to 170-180p/kg for the best-quality hoggs, he said.

Mr Ross was cautiously optimistic that future prices would hold up, provided the euro didn’t weaken further against the pound. “If the euro weakens, we could be in a bit of trouble though.

“One thing is for sure – there will be a lot less sheep about in Scotland this year because we lost so many in the bad winter,” he added. “This could help prices, but it’s a question of whether people will be willing to pay.”