Lamb market on a roll, too

11 July 1997

Lamb market on a roll, too

HAVING been below year-earlier levels since March, lamb prices are now above those of 12 months ago.

Weather has been a factor in the upturn, with wet conditions slowing down lambs progress and limiting marketings.

And warm, bright conditions early this week saw farmers haymaking and silaging, rather than drawing stock for sale.

The effect on Monday was to push average values up 2.5p on the week, to average 119p/kg.

Auctioneer Neil McCleary at Longtown, Cumbria, says the early lambs have already been sold, but the "second string" have been typically delayed two or three weeks by inclement weather.

The improvement in conditions could prompt big marketings over the next week or 10 days, says Mr McCleary. Lambs are a "sunshine plant", he says. "People say they should be roasted twice – once when they are alive and once when they are dead."

This surge of finished animals is now likely to drive values down. "Trade at this time of year usually goes down and down and down," says Mr McCleary.

He also points to the continuing influence of the strong £. "Because of the difficult export environment, lighter lambs arent making a premium.

"If things were different, we might expect to see those in the 35kg to 39kg liveweight range making a 10p to 15p/kg premium over the heavier sorts."

Simon Draper, who sells sheep at Rugby, agrees supplies are tight. On Monday, he sold 2400 lambs; a year earlier, the figure had been 3500.

Prices will head downhill now, he predicts. But the plentiful grass supplies will help demand. "Especially if trade drops toward the 100p/kg-mark, farmers will be looking more to the finished ring for store lambs."

Top of the shopping list will be animals at about 35kg to 37kg, with plenty of growth in them, says Mr Draper.

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