AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly
06 March 2015
Robust lamb trade for another week
Despite throughputs at GB auction marks being broadly level, the liveweight lamb trade in week ending 4 March still moved up again. The GB SQQ edged up almost 3p to average 195.1p/kg. With demand clearly robust, prices are still just about on a par with last year’s levels. This is positive on the back of the increased supply of lambs and the continuing weak skin market. New season lambs are starting to come forward, albeit in small numbers, with prices tracking just ahead of year earlier levels - the NSL SQQ averaged 215.9p/kg in the latest week.
For another week, the cull ewe trade has been exceptional. On the back of fewer ewes forward, the average was up almost £5 per head to £83.40. It is the first time ewes have ever averaged over £80 per head in early March. The firm trade comes as the strength in the prime lamb market has impacted on other sheep prices. Additionally, adult sheep numbers are well below year earlier levels, so that available supplies have encountered hot competition at auction.
Generally the lamb trade starts to pick up around mid -February as Easter comes onto the horizon. With the Easter weekend just four weeks away, trade could start to strengthen at a faster rate over the next couple of weeks. On the flip side, it is possible that the higher supplies could keep a lid on any upwards pressure on price.
Producer share of retail price unchanged
The producer share of the retail price of lamb in February was unchanged on the month earlier at 53%. Farmgate and retail prices both moved up similarly compared with the previous month. At this level, the measure was ahead of its level in February 2014 and represents a better position than for much of the second half of 2014 when producers received less than half of the final retail price.
Still modest positivity in English sheep sector
The English sheep sector appears to be showing some modest positive signs, with the breeding flock continuing to expand. However, revisions to the DEFRA Sheep and Goat Inventory figures for 2013 mean that the positivity may not be as strong as previously thought. As of 1 December 2014, the total number of sheep in England was up almost 5% on the year at 10.82 million head. While the breeding flock was up 2% on the year to 6.5 million head, this was against a smaller breeding flock in December 2013 than was previously reported. The rise in overall sheep numbers was, as expected, largely driven by a 9%, or 370,000 head, increase in the number of other sheep and lambs, which are mostly lambs under one year. This reflects recent forecasts for more lambs to come forward in the first few months of 2015.
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