Selby, N Yorks
(Chris Clubley &Co)
FARMERS still with hoggets should sell them as soon as possible, according to Chris Clubley.
With spring lamb supplies fluctuating early in the season, demand could soon become very volatile.
Prices, therefore, could vary greatly on a week-to-week basis. "Rock and roll", Mr Clubley calls it.
"The temptation is still to delay selling, with many farmers having bought them expensively as £50 stores in the autumn. The hope is that, by postponing, they put on weight and become worth more.
"They may become heavier – but they wont be worth much more. Unlike last year, we certainly wont see averages around the £75-mark."
At Selby last week, for example, 50kg sheep, at about £63, were only worth marginally more than the 40kg ones. "And they will have eaten a lot more money.
"Plus, there is always the danger that, when the major retailers switch solely to new-season lamb, the demand for hoggets will fall through the floor. Get to May and anything can happen."
Pig producers, meanwhile, are facing completely the opposite situation.
For them, the advice is: Hang onto stock, and get it heavier.
"Apart from gilts – for which there is still an 8p or 10p/kg premium for the lighter pigs – there is now very little difference between the pence a kg price for pork and bacon-weight animals. There is only a limited market for pork-weight pigs. Once this is full, it pays to aim for heavier weights.
"Considering the cost of store stock – a six-week-old might set you back between £35 and £38 – it makes sense to finish them between 75kg and 90kg," says Mr Clubley.
And about three-quarters of the 500-plus finished pigs sold weekly through Selby are now in this range.
Unlike the volatile hogget outlook, the prospect for pig prices is one of steadiness, he predicts.
"But values look set to stay between 80p and 90p/kg for the next three months."
And somewhere in between the two situations facing the sheep and pig farmer, when it comes to weight, is that of the beef producer.
"The time of sale is partly governed now by factors such as their age – namely their progression towards the 30-month stage – or retention periods following subsidy claims.
"It makes sense, generally, to take cattle to heavier weights. But remember there isnt really a market for anything over 600kgs." *
Chris Clubley: Aim to put weight on pigs, but sell hoggets now.