Heavy lambs wanted as trade slips back on the year

Weight has been paying at marts this spring as sluggish lamb production has left some farms having to sell lighter lambs (37-38kg) with throughputs 30-40% back on the year and prices matching the year.

Scorching haymaking weather and a European holiday led to both reduced supply and demand and a slide in trade over the past week, with the national SQQ down to 216p/kg on Friday 22 June and 212.19p/kg on Monday 25 June. 


A big premium for weight has been reported at Hereford in June, where Greg Christopher is seeing 41kg lambs make 225p-230p/kg but heavier 43kg-plus lambs make 240-250p/kg.

Numbers are tight, with new-season lamb throughputs back 500 to 1,000 head a week, effectively leaving supply three to four weeks behind last year.

“I would say weight will be dear for a month or so. It will pay to get lambs to 42-43kg, I don’t see the heavy lambs slipping too much,” Mr Christopher told Farmers Weekly.

Heavy (45.6kg-52kg) lambs hit 245.9p/kg on 20 June, as 2,164 lambs averaged at 233p/kg and 2047 lambs hit an SQQ of 232.4p/kg.

North West Auctions

Numbers are back 10-15% each week in the North West, with many vendors having half as many lambs to sell on a weekly basis from a year ago.

Monday’s sale at Lancaster (25 June) saw 10% fewer lambs on the week (517) due to haymaking weather and an average 9p/kg back on the week at 221p/kg.

But numbers were down for a variety of reasons, including the tough spring leading to higher mortality and slower weight gain.

“Dairy farms getting out of sheep to concentrate on dairy has seen numbers back in the Lancaster area,” said Ian Atkinson of North West Auctions. “Meanwhile there are several early lambers who have stopped lambing earlier because they felt it wasn’t being rewarded highly enough. This year it would have been.”

He stressed the important thing for vendors to remember was that lambs should be finished properly. “There is particularly strong demand for lambs at 43kg and above but some farmers need the lambs away in good time and at lighter weights.”

Stirling United Auctions

Numbers are back 30% on the year, although 2017 was an exceptionally good lambing and spring for growing lambs, said Peter Wood at United Auctions.

He stressed that lamb supplies were only slightly behind a typical year, with numbers close to the 1,000-1,500 mark which continues through the peak of the summer.

Yardings have been about the 800-900-head mark, with a total of 784 NSLs reported last Thursday (21 June) at an average of 227.8p/kg (SQQ of 225.7p/kg).

“Late February and early March-born lambs have been slower. Ewes would have been milking less at the time and they would have got the biggest growth stunt,” said Mr Wood. “We could end up with a lot of lambs coming ready at once.”