Lambs on a grow-slow after floods

By Tim Relf

LAMB marketings have been hit in the aftermath of recent wet weather, floods and cold conditions.

As a result, sales over the next few weeks could remain tight and the progress of stock could be slowed. And with many farmers reporting big losses, numbers marketed later in the season will also be reduced.

Evesham farmer Max Bird says stock is “backward” compared with last season. “We would normally be looking to sell the early singles born in March in a couple of weeks time. This year it looks like being at least another month.

“Absolutely devastating,” he says of the floods which, as well as forcing him to move temporarily into a caravan after the house was flooded, cost him 150 ewes and 300 lambs. “Prior to that, it looked like the best lambing we had ever had.”

Mr Bird sold the final batch of last years sheep at Gloucester last Thursday, where they made nearly £1/kg.

At Tewkesbury, Stuart Pearman says this years lambing had looked “promising”, until the floods and bad weather arrived. That could cost him between £15,000 and £20,000.

Theres been a delayed effect. “We were picking lambs up dead from pneumonia two or three weeks after.” Other factors have also taken their toll, says Mr Pearman, such as mis-mothering after having to stock sheep more densely.

The progress of this years lambs could be delayed by up to a month, says Mr Pearman. On the back of this, values could rise in the next couple of weeks, with limited supplies on offer and buyers having switched their attention from hoggets to lambs.

Meanwhile, Mr Pearman is also left with a few hoggets to shift. “Theyre now making between £30 and £40 which, if youve kept them for 12 months, isnt very exciting – especially seeing as two years ago, at the beginning of April, we had them up to £90.”

Central to which way sheep prices go now will be currency movements, he says.

But auctioneer Gavin Loynes at Gloucester says that while the export trade remains under pressure from the strength of Sterling, the home trade is buoying up demand.

  • For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 8-14 May, 1998

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