AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly
22 December 2014
Seasonal strength in the lamb market
In a change to the position on the run in to Christmas over the past couple of years, the lamb trade has found considerable support in the last two months. Prices have moved up from the low point in late September to be at the highest point recorded at this time of year since the record highs of 2011. In week ended 17 December, the SQQ at GB auction marts averaged 181.7p/kg. Although back on the week before, when prices were inflated by the Christmas shows and sales, the SQQ is now consistently tracking ahead of year earlier levels and has moved up around 35p/kg since September.
With more lambs being slaughtered, demand has been much better than in recent years. The cull ewe market has also performed well. With the latest week averaging £72 per head, returns were around £20 per head up on late September. The deadweight trade has followed the same trajectory as the liveweight trade, also demonstrating a return to some seasonal uplift. In week ended 13 December, at 422.7p/kg, the SQQ was up 13p on the week and has now moved up 65p/kg in the past 12 weeks.
Significantly more lambs slaughtered in November
At 1.17 million head, UK lamb slaughterings in November were significantly ahead of year earlier levels. The increase follows lower than expected year-on-year uplifts between August and October. Reports suggest that, although forage supplies have been abundant this year, quality may have been relatively poor. This means that lambs have been slow to finish, constraining growth through the middle of the season. This level of throughputs continues to support the expectation of a notably bigger lamb crop this year, with the November increase representing the eighth consecutive month in which throughputs have been higher year on year.
Consequently, in the June to November period, lamb slaughterings are now up 5%, or over 350,000 head, on year earlier levels. With less impetus to reduce breeding flock sizes and against a backdrop of high cullings last year, UK adult sheep slaughterings in November were again lower on the year, being back 19% at 134,000 head. Despite this drop, in terms of production levels, this did not mitigate the notable increase in lamb slaughterings and higher carcase weights. As such, sheep meat production was up 6% on the year at 26,200 tonnes.
Everyone involved with Cattle and Sheep Weekly would like to wish our readers a Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. We will not be publishing Cattle and Sheep Weekly over the holiday period. The next edition will be published at the normal time on 9 January 2015.
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