Marketings and weather affect lamb
By Tim Relf
LAMB prices remain under pressure, with Mondays average of 103.8p/kg marking a 4.4p drop on the week.
And with marketings on the up, speculation among auctioneers is that the backlog of lambs in the pipeline is now beginning to be sold.
Sally Doyle of the Meat and Livestock Commission says clean sheep slaughterings will be above year-earlier levels for the rest of this year and the first quarter of 1998.
This follows the July to September period when the figure was well down, as inclement weather slowed animals progress and plentiful grass supplies relieved any pressure to sell.
Provisional figures from the Meat and Livestock Commission put the total sold in the three months to September at 4.28m head, compared with 4.94m over the same period in 1996. And two years ago, the figure was 5.19m.
Not only have slaughterings been slow, but survey data shows the country started from a higher base. The number of animals under one-year-old was 2-3% higher in June than 12 months earlier.
"Good weather across the country, particularly in hill and upland areas, meant lamb survival was good," says Mrs Doyle.
"So while scanning results may have indicated a similar lamb crop, the numbers reared were well up."
Not only have prices at market come under pressure from increased marketings, but so the incidence of heavier lambs has risen as the season progresses, further dragging values down.
At Kendal, Cumbria, there was a 10% rise in numbers on the previous week to over 2000 head. And more animals over 45kg were entered, according to auctioneer Kevin Kendal.
"But its the lambs between 38 and 42kg that people want.
"Farmers have held on to lambs, hoping the trade will improve. Now they are cutting and running."
October, meanwhile, also marks the start of the New Zealand export season. UK farmers, however, may take some solace from statements from the New Zealand Meat Producers Board, suggesting there will be no repeat of the record sheep performance seen in the 1996/97 season. Then, the lambing percentage was 111% and carcass weights rose to 15.9kg.
But the quantity of chilled lamb heading into the UK in calendar year 1997 is likely to have risen from its 8370t total in 1996.n