Bryan Griffiths is mystified by forward bid bias on lamb sales

After the seventh ewe had slipped her lambs in the first week of February we decided to consult our vet. We agreed to take in the next aborted foetus for testing, but fortunately have seen no more cases since.

A flock of 120 Suffolk x ewes lambed in the first week of March and have gone out onto a good bite of grass in dry settled weather. Having come in “like a lamb” we must assume the month will go “out like a lion” and so we have stocked up with lamb macs ready for the main flock which start on the 25th. We find no financial advantage in lambing a few weeks earlier, but it creates space in the lambing sheds and can help the summer grazing situation with fat lambs and cull ewes sold from early June.

We have begun feeding 1lb (0.5kg) a head of cake and whole oats to the 340 mules on the root field. Without using half the farm as a grass run-back it is impossible to find enough clean, dry ground to use a snacker feeder, so troughs are a must. The sight of a farmer carrying a sack of feed tends to bring out the worst in a flock and our morning routine would provide good material for a Henry Brewis cartoon.

It seems some abattoirs/retailers are considering forward contracts for purchasing lambs. This is not unreasonable given that the price of most commodities, including many of our inputs, are negotiated months in advance of delivery. Unfortunately, there is an assumption that to calculate a bid price, the buyer first needs to know the seller’s cost of production. I can think of no other trading scenario where such a one sided arrangement would even be contemplated.

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