A summing-up of the 2022 lamb trade by Iain Turner

It all started so well this year. That’s what many sheep keepers were saying when they finished lambing. Crops had generally been good, and fortunately for most shepherds there were none of those awful days and nights when both wind and rain combine causing lambs to get separated from their mothers, and turning what was a very decent lamb crop into a very ordinary one.

With UK inflation running at around 10% during the last few months flock owners would have settled for that but with lamb creep increasing by around £100 per ton, fertilizer more than doubling in price, and massive fuel price increases, profitability could only remain at 2021 levels if lamb prices improved. Unfortunately this didn’t happen and for several periods this year we have seen finished lamb prices below last year’s levels.

For those farmers who finish their lambs off grass the lack of rain meant using some of their silage ground, and by September even lowland flocks were eating into winter rations to maintain body condition in their ewes at tupping. There are already reports circulating that there will be more barren ewes this autumn as a direct result of the drought. This lack of early lambs could help those farmers who have purchased long keep lambs as it could boost the late hogget trade.

Overall the number of Hoggets and lambs slaughtered are 2.2% up on last year, and November did see finished lamb prices firm, but before we get too excited fat lamb prices are still 9% below last year and although it looks as though feed prices will level off nobody would like to say where agricultural inflation is going.