Virus forecast to erode store lamb margins

Hogg finishers targeting the late market after paying elevated store prices might be pleased to break even after supply chains have been rocked by the coronavirus outbreak.

Lamb prices tumbled 70p/kg (£30 a head) last week after retailer and export demand evaporated with tightening lockdown rules.

Analysts forecast a slow price recovery based on the unknown duration of lockdown and social distancing measures at home and abroad.

AHDB analyst Rebecca Wright reassured that lamb exports to Europe were open, although cross-border checks have been stepped up.

She said the closures of public markets – such as the vast 234ha Rungis market in Paris – had limited demand and that most domestic processor closures were due to a lack of demand rather than issues with staff.

See also: What coronavirus means for farm kit orders, spares and servicing


Craig Wilson Livestock auctioneer Drew Kennedy played down any Easter and Ramadan price rises.

“Easter and Ramadan won’t be the big social events they normally are because of social distancing rules,” he said. “These events normally come together and boost trade for the late hoggs.”

He said the store lamb gamble had paid off for buyers until now, but it looked likely some lambs would do well to cover costs.

Ayr’s Monday (30 March) sale saw 809 hoggets average 47.9kg and 163p/kg and an SQQ of 171.6p/kg.

He said regional processing capacity had reduced. West Scottish Lamb, Carlisle, confirmed that it had temporarily closed, while Scotbeef’s lamb processing has been consolidated at the Vivers Scotlamb plant for staff health reasons.


After managing a weaker, but still comparatively buoyant, trade last week (23 March), Ross market saw an entry of 381 hoggets average £79.88 a head at an average weight of 39.47kg and level at an SQQ of 181p/kg on Monday (30 March).

Will Probert, auctioneer and valuer for RG and RB Williams, said this was less than 20% of a usual seasonal entry, but was to be expected in very challenging circumstances. 

He said spring lambs were 100p/kg less on the week at £90-odd a head (230p/kg+). Best hoggs made £85 and more run-of-the-mill types sold for nearer £75.

Last week’s (23 March) trade opened strongly, but buyers got wind of lacklustre food service and continental demand before selling finished at 10:15am.

“Lambs making £106 at the start were making £92-£95 by the end of trading,” Mr Probert said.

“Stores will start growing now the weather’s turned and finishers will only have maybe six weeks to hold them.”