AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly
25 August 2014
Lamb prices continue to drift lower
The downwards trend in liveweight lamb prices has continued for another week as the market seemingly lacks any real impetus. At 162.8p/kg, the GB NSL SQQ in week ended 20 August was down by over 3p on the previous week. With the week as a whole lower, there was also an easing of the trade across the week. Having started the week at 164.8p/kg on Thursday 14 August, the SQQ had fallen to 161.4p/kg by Wednesday 20 August.
Despite the market being under pressure, reports continue to indicate a better demand for well finished animals, with those either under finished or too fat more difficult to sell. This comes as buyers can be more selective about their procurement. As such, the message remains true that at this point in the trading cycle, it is best to market lambs when they are fit. Animals should be regularly drafted so as to avoid overfinishing which both incurs extra costs and potentially affects the end price received.
Looking ahead the usual seasonal pattern is for prices to bottom out around the end of September or early October. In 2013, with the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Adha falling on 14 October, prices hit their lowest weekly point in week ended 5 October before picking up due to increased festival demand. This year, the festival falls on 4 October, meaning the increased demand associated with this event should be 10 days earlier this year.
UK lamb kill still ahead of 2013
Further confirming the expectations of a larger lamb crop and better finishing conditions, the UK lamb kill during July was still ahead of year earlier levels. At 1.27 million head, lamb slaughterings for the month were 6% higher year on year. While this is ahead of the levels recorded in the corresponding months of 2013 and 2012, it is much more in line with the levels recorded prior to that, albeit generally much lower than pre-2009 levels.
In contrast to the lamb kill, the number of adult sheep slaughtered continued to be lower year on year during July. At 171,000 head the UK adult sheep kill for the month was down 13% compared with 2013 levels. This represents the lowest July adult sheep kill since the FMD-disrupted year of 2001.
Overall carcase weights for July were higher, largely on the back of better conditions and better feed availability.
With higher weights and more lambs slaughtered, total UK sheep meat production for July was over 5% higher on the year at 28,700 tonnes.
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