Lamb value tumbles, but may recover

By Simon Wragg

DISAPPOINTMENT that spring lamb prices have tumbled could be tempered by a firming-up of values expected by some auctioneers.

According to Meat and Livestock Commission figures released on Tuesday (1 June), prices fell 9p/kg last week to level at an average of 108p/kg liveweight.

But auctioneers are confident trade will begin to recover. Gloucester markets Jon Pullin says prices often take a tumble as the first sustained rush of lambs hit the market, but these may edge up as business settles.

“Outside factors also played a part. The recent hot weather hasnt helped supermarket shift supplies. And lamb is still considered a Sunday joint,” he says.

Against this, buyers are still competing at the ringside.

Further north, Kendal-based auctioneer Kevin Kendal agrees trade will improve. With 1000 lambs expected at market days throughout June hes looking for prices to hold at between 100-110p/kg.

“New buyers are coming in to the market looking for volume and that will help,” he believes.

Mondays trade at Kendal saw new-season lamb average 107p/kg, with top bids for Suffolk types breaking 120p/kg. “Vendors are happy with their returns at the moment and that counts.”

Despite the most recent fall, demand helped prices remain steady through most of May with a SQQ of about 122p/kg liveweight.

Compared with last year – when the skin trade kept values buoyant – prices are generally back by at least 10p/kg, although the latest reckoning is 15p/kg, according to the MLC.

And pressure on prices is likely to continue if trade forecasts are realised. In recent weeks new season supplies accounted for 70% of all marketings after a slow start.

Numbers are expected to build following a slightly longer finishing period. This may be due to producers not wanting to incur concentrate costs when finishing lambs, the MLC suggests.

“Were are seeing producers hold on to lambs to higher weights, and theyre being paid for it. There is a call for 42kg to 43kg lambs over last years lighter trade and even 45kg to 50kg lambs continue to make 100p/kg,” adds Mr Kendal.

In contrast, hogget prices are slipping. The old season SQQ fell back slightly to 78p/kg last week.

“Trade reflects quality; there are a lot of tail-enders coming through and in recent days as many as 50% have erupted teeth pushing values back to cull prices,” warns Mr Kendal.

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