Cull ewe values are up and lambs have lost £6-£7 a head this year as the ethnic trade drives mutton demand and lambs have seen limited interest from wholesalers and caterers.
The average cull ewe price (for England and Wales) has lifted £12 a head since January, according to the Livestock Auctioneers Association. Ewe prices typically start increasing in March as flocks lamb, and supply tightens before prices peak in late spring or summer, depending on the timing of religious festivals.
However, hogg trade has lost 14p/kg over the same period. Market reports suggest export-weight lambs have fared better than heavier offerings.
Last week’s lamb SQQ was 257p/kg, which was 16p/kg back on the year, despite supply being tighter.
Longtown sees big numbers
Conversations around cull ewe marketing ahead of Ramadan (2 April-2 May) should start sooner rather than later this year, said John Walton, sheep auctioneer at Longtown for C and D Marts.
Mr Walton predicted very proactive procurement policies as ewe numbers were tight.
“We expect buyers to start lairaging ewes earlier this year so farmers should get in touch with their sheep auctioneers and plan marketing strategies,” he said.
“Ramadan is a fasting time, but large meals are had at night, and very often the meat of choice for feasting on is mutton.”
Last week (3 March) saw an extra 1,500-head yarded on the week at Longtown, but averages held up well, only slipping £3 a head for the 5,059 forward. Light ewes levelled at £80 and heavies averaged £123.
Truro up almost £20 a head
One of Truro’s strongest ever cull ewe sales was reported by Ross Collins and the Lodge and Thomas team last week (2 March).
First-quality ewes were £19 dearer on the week, averaging £126, and second-quality ewes were £17 a head dearer, levelling at £96. A yarding of 105 – mostly Dorset, Dorset-cross, Texel-, Charollais- and Suffolk-cross ewes went under the hammer.
“Heading up to Ramadan seems to have pushed the trade on,” said Mr Collins. “It’s been largely dry and apart from some stormy weather recently, it’s been helpful for farmers.”
Mr Collins said reasonable, unfertilised sheep grazing ground was £8-£12/ha (£20-£30/acre) dearer than normal and had recently made £57/ha (£140/acre).
“It’s noticeable how many more people are tendering for grass keep. Perhaps the decision has been to take on more ground rather than buy fertiliser at high prices.”