With Christmas just around the corner, farmers have continued to receive early gifts in the form of lamb price increases, supported by a boost in demand. Lamb demand does typically increase in the lead up to the festivities, and according to the latest analysis by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) industry reports imply 2018 is no different.

Deadweight lamb prices have been rallying fast for the past few weeks, with the cooler weather bringing some warmth to the price. During the week ending 8 December, the deadweight Standard Quality Quotation (SQQ) for prime lambs gained almost 4p to stand at 402.9p per kg, a 4.4p premium on last year. Estimated slaughtering for the week stand at 275,000 head, 20per cent (67,500 head) down year-on-year.

During November, clean sheep slaughtering was down 73,000 head on the year at 1,224,800 head, according to the latest data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). In the year-to-November, new season lamb slaughtering totalled 7,347, 500 head, 8 per cent (628,400 head) lower than in the same period in 2017 and a 4 per cent (73,000 head) decline month-on-month. This slip in slaughtering from the latest lamb crop is likely a continued effect of the smaller total lamb crop.

In contrast, ewe slaughtering recorded another sharp rise by 12 per cent (16,000 head) to 145,600 head, following similar increases in October. Industry reports suggest that the supply of cull ewes is beginning to slow, perhaps a reflection of so many having already come forward. In addition to this, there have been reports that fewer flocks are expected to lamb early and therefore farmers have not yet scanned when in previous years they would have. This could help to more evenly match the supply and demand balance of mutton as demand is reported to be sluggish at best.

Market round-up

C&D Auction Marts Ltd had a massive show of 7003 prime lambs at their weekly sale in Longtown on Thursday that sold to a top of £114 per head and 258p per kg to average 183p (no change on the week).

There was also another large entry of 5068 cast sheep that saw heavy ewes sell to £160 for Texels and average £68.40 (+£1.42), while light/export-type ewes peaked at £63 for Cheviots and levelled at £36.67 (-£4). Rams sold to £112 for a Texel and averaged £66.15.

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd had a mixed show for quality of store cattle at Ayr on Thursday when 122 heifers sold to £1110 per head and 214.6p per kg to average £740.86 or 186.3p (+1.5p on the fortnight), while 158 beef-bred bullocks peaked at £1200 and 275.6p to level at £867.78 or 198.9p (+8.7p). Nineteen B&W dairy-bred bullocks sold to £730 and 173.5p to average £704.21 or 146.5p (+16.1p).