Prime lamb prices have shown firmness over the past week, rising by 7p per kg live-weight (l.wt.), after falling during the previous four weeks.

This took the average price back in line with prices during the same period in 2016, said Stuart Ashworth, Head of Economic Services at Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) - the red meat industry promotional body.

The quality of lambs forward for sale has improved significantly on those forward two weeks ago, with the proportion of lambs falling in the 25-45kg l.wt. range increasing last week. "The fact that more than 75 per cent of lambs have been falling into this weight range is helping to support the SQQ (Standard Quality Quotation) price," said Mr Ashworth.

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"The SQQ price is, however, heavily influenced by the demand for 39-40kg lambs which have recently sold at a significant premium of 8-9p per kg l.wt. over lighter lambs and 3-5p per kg l.wt. over heavier lambs."

As the number of lambs increase in this weight range the overall average price can rise while the price for this specification may not change as rapidly, observed Mr Ashworth.

However, in the past week the lift in the average price for 39-40kg lambs has often been greater than that of the whole SQQ weight range. "This would indicate firm demand in the wholesale market for lambs often described as "supermarket lambs", suggesting QMS' current Scotch Lamb PGI marketing campaign and the GB-wide Love Lamb Week promotions are having an impact on demand", said Mr Ashworth.

The downturn in lamb numbers reaching the market is also helping to stimulate prices, he added, although the increase in price in the current week drew more lambs into auction rings as the week progressed, without putting a break on the price.

Market round-up

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 166 store heifers at Ayr on Thursday to a top of £1115 per head and 227.6p per kg to average £789.52 and 198.6p (-3.3p on the week), while 190 store, beef-bred bullocks peaked at £1265 and 232.3p to level at £897.50 and 209.8p (+1.1p). One hundred store, B&W bullocks sold to £920 and 154.3p to average £637.35 and 138.5p (-2.7p).

C&D Auction Marts Ltd sold 4233 prime lambs in Longtown on Thursday to a top of £102 per head and 256p per kg to average 172.9p (+8.2p).

A much larger show of 6383 cast sheep saw heavy ewes sell to £148 for Texels and average £66.27 (-£3.26), while light ewes peaked at £66 for Cheviots and levelled at £33.64 (+40p). Rams sold to £148 for a Texel and averaged £79.36.