Lamb numbers were tight at UK auction marts following a slow spring, with auctioneers estimating Scottish and northern marts were about three weeks behind where they would usually be.
According to figures from AHDB, prices for new season lamb SQQ stood at 258.06p/kg for the week ending May 30, down 8p/kg with old season lamb down 25p/kg at 194.48p/kg.
But total throughputs were down 22 per cent on the year, with new season lamb down 30,000 head.
Sedgemoor auctioneer Paul Ashton said prices dropped back last week but had since started to increase again.
“We had a much better trade,” he said.
Skipton auctioneer Ted Ogden said new season lamb prices had actually hardened over the last 10 days and old season lamb numbers were ‘much tighter’ as they approached the end of the season.
“New season lamb is hard to come by. With the cold spring, lambs had a slow start,” he said.
“Numbers are tighter and as a consequence average prices are up about 20p/kg on last year.”
He said lambs ‘will catch up’, but northern farmers were about two to three weeks behind.
Tam Struthers, auctioneer with Lawrie and Symington, said farmers in Scotland were ‘a few weeks behind due to the weather’.
“Usually, numbers are starting to increase now,” he said.
Mr Ashton added there also seemed to be price pressure from the retail side following high prices over the past few months.
And buyers seemed to have ‘quite a bit of resistance to the lighter lambs’.
“I think previously, when the trade was really flying, farmers were trying to send out anything virtually fit to catch the market,” he said.
“Everyone is wanting things well covered. For old season lamb, anything which is lacking meat is heavily discounted.
“A bit of additional feed is paying dividends at the moment.”
For beef, Mr Struthers said they were seeing a ‘very good trade’.
“Deadweight pricing has been pretty steady for the past few weeks,” he said.
“They are selling readily.”
Ramadan has supported cull ewe prices as Muslims across the UK gear up for the Eid al-Fitr festival.
Skipton auctioneer Ted Ogden said it had ‘gone quiet’ for a week after the first seven days of Ramadan.
“Prices in the last week or 10 days have hardened again,” he said.
Paul Ashton, Sedgemoor, said: “Generally you see a strong trade a couple of weeks before Ramadan starts.
“Then you can see a little more the last couple of weekends. We had a strong trade three weeks ago; a fortnight ago it was a bit flat.
“Last Saturday we had a flyer again.”
With the Eid al-Fitr celebration beginning on June 14, he said there would probably be another good trade this week ‘and then it could tail off’.
“But the one in August is the major one,” added Mr Ogden.
Eid al-Adha was expected to begin on August 21.