Scottish lamb prices up slightly on 2013

Farm gate lamb prices are slightly ahead of last year according to the latest market update from meat promotion body Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

Stuart Ashworth, head of economic services at QMS, reported that the number of lambs over 45kg has increased on last year, meaning more lamb meat on the market. However, slaughter data from October 2014 showed 2.5% fewer lambs were killed compared to last year, and 1.5% less than in England and Wales.

“This change in relative volumes is reflected in the price paid for lambs in Scotland, which has been running slightly ahead of prices in England and Wales for the past two weeks, a scenario that has not existed since the beginning of August this year,” observed Ashworth.

Prices could also benefit from the return of the Chinese market buying lamb skins: “Earlier in the year, actions by the Chinese government to improve water quality closed many Chinese sheep skin processors and resulted in a global crash in sheepskin prices,” he explained.

“Some of these processors have now taken the necessary remedial action and re-opened. Consequently they are slowly returning to the marketplace. However, the retail demand for sheepskin and leather products remains subdued.”

Ashworth also reported that, in recent weeks, cull ewes have been trading at prices almost 20% higher than last year: “One driver for this will have been the significant decline in ewe slaughterings. Between June and the end of October, ewe slaughterings across the UK have been almost 12% lower than the same period last year, a decline of more than 100,000 head.  
 
“A higher ewe population recorded in the June census would suggest that, at the usual replacement rates needed to maintain flock size, there would be a small growth in ewe slaughterings.  

“The fact that ewe slaughterings are lower than last year may then prove to be an indicator of further growth in breeding sheep numbers this autumn.”

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