Spring lamb prices off to a strong start

Thursday, 8 June 2023

Average prices for new season lambs (NSL) are in a strong position as supply switches away from old season, with throughputs falling short compared to a year ago.

The deadweight GB NSL Standard Quality Quotation (SQQ) averaged 709p/kg in the week ending 3 June, up 24p compared to the same week in 2022. Meanwhile, the equivalent liveweight measure average 336p/kg, down just 6p year-on-year.

Graph showing the weekly overall GB liveweight lamb SQQ

This comes as spring lambs have been slower out of the gates this year compared to last (and the 5-year average). By the 3 June, just under 186,000 new season lambs had come through GB auction marts since the start of the year, 17% below the same period in 2022. Indeed, estimated GB weekly slaughter (of both old and new season lambs) has run below 2022 levels throughout most of May.

Present trends in spring lamb supplies likely reflect pressures from challenging weather over the past season, variable grass growth and more expensive feed. While still early days in terms of new season supply, we may well see these systemic factors continue to impact the kill pattern for the rest of the year.

Graph showing weekly GB throughputs of new and old season lambs

Hoggets still a strong trade

Old season lamb prices are still strong. Weekly numbers are falling as the supply comes to an end, but auction market data suggests that there are more hoggets around than at this point a year ago.

In the week ending 3 June, the GB liveweight OSL SQQ averaged 262p/kg (up 3p year-on-year), while the deadweight SQQ averaged 639p/kg (up 35p year-on-year). Reports of variable quality are becoming more frequent as the hogget supply tails off, but well-fleshed animals are still reportedly in good demand.

For more detailed pricing, visit our webpages:

What else is behind current prices, and what’s the outlook?

Going forward, spring lamb prices will fall seasonally with more supply; but to what degree?

From a demand perspective, 12-week ending data shows that year-on-year declines in the quantity of lamb sold via retail have slowed. These figures have been helped by a very positive Easter. With Easter over, the next single key point of demand for sheep meat is the Eid al-Adha festival (expected on 28 June). Requirements for the charitable giving of Qurbani are for lambs of at least 6 months old (this year’s lambs would need to have been born before 28 December to be suitable).

For more information on Qurbani, read: Understanding the Qurbani market | AHDB Better Returns

Meanwhile, the balance of imported and exported sheep meat so far this year has also been supportive of domestic price (imports down, exports up versus a year ago). For exports, the UK was in a very price-competitive position for the first quarter, but prices began to rally from March onwards. However, the gap between GB and French prices has closed over recent weeks, which could limit export growth if this market dynamic persists. The tight supply situation on the continent is likely to remain a key draw on UK supplies.

Sign up for regular updates

You can subscribe to receive Beef and Lamb market news straight to your inbox. Simply fill in your contact details on our online form.

Visit the Keep in touch page

While AHDB seeks to ensure that the information contained on this webpage is accurate at the time of publication, no warranty is given in respect of the information and data provided. You are responsible for how you use the information. To the maximum extent permitted by law, AHDB accepts no liability for loss, damage or injury howsoever caused or suffered (including that caused by negligence) directly or indirectly in relation to the information or data provided in this publication.

All intellectual property rights in the information and data on this webpage belong to or are licensed by AHDB. You are authorised to use such information for your internal business purposes only and you must not provide this information to any other third parties, including further publication of the information, or for commercial gain in any way whatsoever without the prior written permission of AHDB for each third party disclosure, publication or commercial arrangement. For more information, please see our Terms of Use and Privacy Notice or contact the Director of Corporate Affairs at info@ahdb.org.uk  © Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. All rights reserved.