Prime lamb values have recovered lost ground to sit at a Great Britain average of 274p/kg on Monday (8 February).
Tight supplies have driven prices and seen stores and ewe hoggs head to slaughter.
AHDB liveweight numbers for 2021 reached 358,402 last week (6 February) – 9.8% down on the same period in 2020. This is despite SQQs being 35p/kg higher.
The AHDB has predicted a 7% fall in UK lamb production between January and May due to a smaller carryover of lambs resulting from Brexit-cautious slaughtering before Christmas.
An entry of 188 hoggs hit an SQQ of 250p/kg at Truro last week (3 February). Lambs at 41.8kg and 42kg made 263p/kg.
“We have seen some farmers cashing in ewe hoggs,” said sheep auctioneer Ed Harris of Lodge and Thomas. “In previous years this has led to fewer shearling breeders in the summer sales. We could see this push the breeding ewe prices.”
He said in-lamb commercial ewes had made £50 a unit more than last year. The only issue was that lighter and plainer hoggs were now coming forward as the tail-enders started to be drawn, he added.
After very high throughputs in December, Russell Steer of Kivells has been amazed at the volumes of hoggs farmers have been able to find.
“I thought we’d be quiet this year,” said Mr Steer. “Where are sheep coming from? Perhaps people are choosing to cash sheep initially kept back as breeders because of strong trade and all the wet and clashy weather we’ve had.”
He said confidence was sky high, with couples trading for £5-£8 a life more than last year recently and £10 more for much of the winter.
Monday’s (8 February) entry of 160 new season lambs averaged 320p/kg for mostly Charollais-sired lambs out of Dorset cross ewes – 60p/kg up on the year. Best 45kg lambs hit £141 a head.
Some producers are starting to consider cashing empty hoggs and shearlings in Yorkshire, according to Ted Ogden of Craven Cattle Marts.
Monday (8 February) saw 2,158 prime old season lambs average 273.9p/kg, which was a stand on trade for the week for 26% fewer sold.
Mr Ogden said wintry weather had prevented some vendors getting sheep gathered and sold, but that he expected a bigger (2,500-3,000-head) entry next week (15 February).
He said all classes of lambs were selling well, but the 32-34kg Swaledale wether lambs at 240p/kg had seen very strong demand recently.
Tuesday’s (8 February) Great Britain old season lamb SQQ
How much the liveweight lamb throughput was back on the year last week (6 February) at 71,216 head
Price (a life) for full-mouthed Suffolk cross ewes and young mules with twins at Exeter on Monday (8 February)