Prices for new season lambs are up £9 a head on the year, with the national SQQ at 264.39p/kg – up more than 20p/kg.
Sheep farmers have been able to take advantage of April’s dry conditions and get early draws of lambs away early after reporting phenomenal growth rates.
Last week 38,584 new season lambs were marketed in Great Britain. This was up 82% on the week and 12% on the year, according to AHDB figures.
Farmers are reporting deadweight quotes of £5.30-£5.40/kg following a sharp rise in market prices after a major trade blip was caused by a drop in demand from the continent in late April.
One centre that felt the blip particularly hard was Exeter, which sells lambs from 9.30am on Mondays, although prices have recovered since in line with other centres.
On Monday (18 May) 2,007 spring lambs averaged 255p/kg (SQQ 257.9p/kg), compared with 1,875 at 243p/kg in the corresponding week in 2019.
Russell Steer, sheep auctioneer at Kivells, said numbers at Exeter now looked like they were peaking.
“We’ve seen it before, a blip early on. We lost 50p/kg at the end of April when shipments to the continent were cancelled,” he said.
“Supermarkets are switching over to new-season lamb now as hogg numbers start drying up. Deadweight prices are lifting in response to the improvements in trade.”
Last week’s entry (14 May) of 2,320 new-season lambs left an SQQ of 271.04p/kg, compared with 1,444 at 255.71p/kg in the corresponding week last year.
The six weeks up to and including 14 May saw a more than 30% rise in more sold through the market.
Jones Peckover auctioneer and consultant John Brereton said conditions at grass had been favourable to allow farmers to finish the bulk of the early lambs in good time. But it had not all been plain sailing.
“The three storms in February meant some early lambs were knocked by the weather a bit,” he told Farmers Weekly. “But lambs are coming forward quite well now.”
He noted Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr (23 May) were 10 days earlier this year and would be influential on prices.
He said some Muslims desired lamb and others mutton around this time but added: “Along with the strength of the pound, export demand and other things, Muslim festivals are very influential.”