Spring lamb returns lift early shearling trade 25-30%

Breeding sheep could be dearer once again this autumn if the trend set by early shearling sales continues.

Strong Suffolk cross Mule shearlings – the benchmark of sheep trade in the South West – are about 30% dearer than last year.

Elevated cull ewe prices – also up 30% on the year – mean an old ewe that has reared twins and been culled in good condition could have brought in more than £400 this summer.

Many bidders keenly seeking sheep at these sales are early lambers and have benefited from the phenomenal lamb prices of £130-£150 a head before the June drop.

See also: Lamb prices forecast to stay high in run-up to Eid

Consequently, this means good pens of sheep are regularly coming to £190-£200 a head, with averages £30-£40 a head up on the year at early sales.

Auctioneers say rising input costs and any unforeseen falls in prime lamb values could produce resistance to high prices this autumn.

However, grass growth remains strong at present, and prime lamb values early in the week stayed largely unchanged across Great Britain at about 250p/kg. This is about 30p/kg up on the year, giving confidence to those worried about further decreases.


Russell Steer of Kivells said there was a lot of interest for Suffolk-cross shearlings at Exeter on Tuesday (13 July).

An entry of about 2,300 shearlings with 200 older ewes levelled at £192 a head, up £47 a head on the year. Trade topped at £270 for Suffolk cross Cheviot Mules and Suffolk cross Mules topped at £248 a head.

Mr Steer said that this year’s average was above last year’s top price. The top pen last year, during Covid, made £172 a head.

“There were lots of pens around £200 a head and £160-£170 was not getting people’s first- or second-choice sheep,” said Mr Steer. “The average was up £16 last year and it’s dearer again this time.”


Last week’s (8 July) breeding sheep sale at Sedgemoor saw a mixed-breed entry of 3,086 first- and second-cross shearlings average £178 a head, up almost £37 on the year (+26.2%).

Auctioneers said exceptionally strong cull ewe prices and, at times, record-breaking lamb prices had given buyers confidence.

Suffolk cross Mules sold to £202 and North of England Mules sold to £198 and £185. Texel cross Mules topped at £195, £190 and £188 and Dorset cross Mules topped at £190.

The numbers


The lift seen in Wigton’s prime lamb SQQ this week, which hit 286.1p/kg on Monday (12 July)

£129.50 a head

Top-priced Mule cull ewe at Skipton on Monday (12 July). A total of 1,119 cull sheep levelled at £92.34 and Mules averaged £95, with lean Mules at £70-£80


Monday’s Great Britain prime lamb SQQ – back 3.2p/kg on the week



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