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'Fit not fat' lambs will ensure the best return

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: June 21, 2012

SHEEPISH: Bidding at South Molton sheep market.

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THE sudden swing in lamb prices triggered advice from the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) that farmers should send "fit not fat" lambs to market.

EBLEX director Nick Allen reassured the sector that it was an annual trend running a few weeks earlier than normal.

He urged producers to concentrate on selling stock as they reach the target weight and fatness to maximise returns and benefit from the higher end prices hidden within the standard quality quotation (SQQ) average.

"Historically we do see a dip in price this time of year," he said. "Remember that prices this time last year were exceptionally high so may make the gap between then and now look artificially big. The price trend is actually in kilter with 2009 and 2010 early season, which in hindsight were seen by producers as good.

"There are many other factors affecting the market and it is important to view it in context," he said. Internationally, there has been a fall in lamb prices across the board."

He said there was also evidence of farmers holding on to their lambs too long waiting for the price to go up, which can create a spike in supply which of course affects the prices.

He said: "The SQQ is an average. If you look at the high end within that, those animals hitting the hypothetical export spec weight band of 25.5kg to 43kg, the average price there was 227.6p/kg in the week ending May 26. This shows a 25p/kg premium over the average.

"Looking at the top 50 per cent, there was an average premium of almost 12p/kg over the SQQ average.

"Our message to producers is to ensure you are selling lambs that are fit not fat in order to capitalise on the higher end prices."


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