A relatively kind spring has bolstered interest for sheep with lambs at foot in 2019, to leave prices at a similar level to last year, say auctioneers.
This is despite new and old season lamb SQQs (standard quality quotations) being back on the year and continued Brexit uncertainty.
Largely favourable weather conditions have helped early grass covers, although colder snaps more recently have stunted growth in some areas.
Auctioneers stress that grass means trade, and average daily growth rates published by AHDB Forage for Knowledge were 75% higher than last year on Friday (5 April), at 38.2kgDM/ha.
Prices have become steadily dearer each week at Exeter, where three- and four-crop ewes are making up the bulk of the entries with trade now matching last year.
Auctioneer Russell Steer of Kivells has seen buyers that were unable to source shearlings in the autumn because of the drought come to sales in earnest to replenish flock numbers.
Up until last week’s sale (5 April), the best doubles were making £220 and best singles were making £150, with averages getting closer to the £60-a-life mark each week.
“People buying couples are going to have to face the store lamb market in the autumn, so I think an outfit sold at £65 a life looks well sold,” said Mr Steer.
Twins were generally selling for £160-£185 (£53.33-£61.60 a life), while singles were making about £110-£130 (£55-£65 a life). Suffolk and Texel-cross ewes have made £65-£70 a life and more.
Throughputs are building at Welshpool where Tom Davies, sheep auctioneer and surveyor at Welshpool Livestock Sales, is expecting weekly numbers to reach 700 by late April and more than 1,200 in May for the Bank Holiday sales.
Sales started strongly on 11 February to average of £70.86 a life, but since then averages have been pulled down by hill-bred Welsh Mountain ewes.
Averages are now about £48-£52 a life. Many twins have traded at £46-£57 a life and singles at £45-£55 a life.
Older Suffolk-cross ewes with twins have been selling up to £72 a life, with Texel-crosses at £63-£70 a life, with the very best singles making £130-£150 (£65-£75 a life).
Last week’s sale (1 April) saw 254 units forward, of which 50 were full-mouthed Welsh Mountain ewes averaging £60 a unit (£30 a life).