Archive Article: 1998/03/27

27 March 1998




AUCTIONEERS

COMMENT

MARKET

Maidstone

AUCTIONEER

Alan Mummery

(Lambert &Foster)

AUCTIONEERS

COMMENT

MARKET

Maidstone

AUCTIONEER

Alan Mummery

(Lambert &Foster)

NEW season lambs look set to hit the market in bigger numbers earlier this year than usual, according to Alan Mummery.

Farmers, who traditionally sold them as stores in the summer and autumn, may rush to get them finished early, worried there wont be the demand for stores there was last season.

"And store buyers will be more cautious, having had their fingers burnt. Some animals sourced at last summers auctions for record prices of £40-plus are now being slaughtered for less than £35.

"There have been a lot of casualties this year – people may not be prepared to gamble on lamb again."

Lamb breeders may, therefore, choose to take advantage of the relatively-lower creep feed costs and push stock on fast, says Mr Mummery.

"People are concerned enough about farm profitability. Its been a terrible fruit season, hops are diabolical and beef remains awful. If they can see the opportunity of getting £40/head for finished lambs in June, theyll probably take it."

Demand for stores later in the season could also be down, with people less prepared to fold sheep in the winter after this years experiences. At Maidstone, as elsewhere, dirty fleeces have been a problem.

"We have offered a cleaning service at 30p a head which, although potentially making an unsaleable sheep saleable, represents another cost to the farmer," says Mr Mummery.

The first sign of the drive to market stock earlier was seen last autumn, in the form of big interest for the best breeding sheep. Rams with high breeding indexes were sought after. "A ram shows its true colours in the early lamb market, throwing strong, fast-growing offspring."

One of the few factors slowing the rapid progress of lambs is the high incidence of doubles, rather than singles, says Mr Mummery. "Two dont get fit as fast as one, after all."

The first new season went through Maidstone in mid-February, chiefly the early producers further east in the county who, following the closure of Canterbury mart, looked for a different outlet.

"Numbers will now build up quickly and when there are sufficient lambs available, buyers turn their backs on hoggets."

Interest in them, meanwhile, will snowball, as demand spreads from the butchers and specialists to the bigger retailers. Buyers will be looking for a "true milk lamb", rather than something that is weaned and has been fed. Level of finish is the key to good prices. "At Easter time, 40kg may be the ideal weight – but dont keep lambs on to 40kg if they are fit at 38kg.

"Buyers also want farm-assured stock – so the cost of becoming assured is soon recouped in sale values," reckons Mr Mummery.

New season lamb numbers will build quickly, says Alan Mummery.

Farmers worried about lack of store demand may look to finish lambs early and take the cash. Buyers are beginning to show interest.


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