Wetter weather and a mild autumn have combined to provide ample late grazing for store lamb buyers and some good root crops on which to finish stock, which has helped support prices.
Shorter-keep lambs that will turn around quickly are at times £1-£2 back on the year, while longer-term lambs are £4 back or more.
Meanwhile, the phenomenal trade of earlier this season is still fresh in the memory. However, auctioneers admit you would need a crystal ball to see if lambs will average over 300p/kg again for weeks at a time.
Ashford’s store lamb numbers have already amounted to 60,000-head this year, up 10% on the year as more lambs have been sold as store rather than prime.
Elwyn Davies, auctioneer at Hobbs Parker, says trade is generally back £3 a head on the year, but that the best stores have held their value well, generally only £1 to £2 a head back on the year and some on par.
“Longer-term store lambs have suffered due to the uncertainty of long-term keep and dairy farmers being forced to cut later cuts of silage,” he told Farmers Weekly. “These longer-keep lambs have been £4 a head back.”
Mr Davies said that July-August trade was remarkably firm considering the dry weather.
Last week (2 November), 6,321 stores saw 1,000 Suffolk-cross top at £66.50 to average £57.68, 997 Texel-cross top £64.20 to level at £57.54 and 1,429 Charollais-cross reach £68.20 to average £60.02.
More than 1,600 Romneys averaged £48.59 and sold to £63.90, while Beltex-cross topped at £65.20 and averaged £61.98.
Luke Holmes, sheep auctioneer for United Auctions, said a firm store lamb trade has meant export-weight lambs (38-42kg) have been making more money in the store than the prime ring.
“This has maybe changed over the last week as there’s more export interest now, but we have had 40kg lambs in the prime ring at £62 and lambs from the same farm topping at £67 and averaging £62 in the store ring,” said Mr Holmes.
The arrival of farm payments and a much-improved forage situation has helped demand for store lambs across the region, he added.
“This time people have drilled more stubble turnips and rapes as feeding options. As it has got wetter through the past month, we’ve seen more store lambs come forward.”
John Wharton, livestock manager and auctioneer at Mitchells, said trade is at 140-150p/kg for plainer types, while heavier and stronger lambs are 160-180p/kg.
“Trade is very similar to last year,” explained Mr Wharton, who sees 1,200- to 2,000-head at fortnightly Friday sales and sold more than 5,000-head at the ‘Fellmans Gather’ sale (26 October).
Hardy, hill-bred store lambs of all breeds will continue to come through the ring until the end of the year, he added.
Texel prices are hitting the £62-£66.50-mark, while Mules are mainly selling around the £52-£57 bracket. Herdwick-cross Texel (‘Texwick’) have been ranging from £41 to £57.50 recently.
“Selling store lambs was hard work earlier on when buyers were concerned about fodder, but generally trade will be £1-£2 a head back on last year.”
- -22%: How far back Great British prime lamb throughput (62,146) is on the corresponding week last year (week ending 3 November)
- 171.26: Average p/kg price for England’s prime lambs on Tuesday (6 November)
- £3-£4: The lift per head on strong, short-keep Suffolk and Texel-crosses at Skipton last week (31 October)