Stephen Dodsworth - Darlington

5th December 2016

The prime sheep market, since our first new season lambs appeared in the spring, has craved weight. 2016 has certainly proved to be a good year for the heavyweight lamb producer. Our weekly red market always sees the well fleshed lambs very easy to sell. However, at least at the moment, the days are gone when the buyer prefers a lean 37kg lamb.

Our message to vendors is clear, simple and consistent. The leaner lambs are worth considerably more sold through a store ring, in many instances as much as £5 to £10 per head more. This trend, I predict, looks set to continue for the next couple of months at least. However a shift in the market trend will occur at some stage later in the season. We always see a period (usually just as the supermarkets move on to New Zealand lamb) in which our hoggets all start to come heavier. This results in the lightweights being in short supply and high demand. The hogget producers then may be able to change their product. As buyers of store lambs are on the whole farming better land than many of our breeders, the bought in lambs thrive and grow big, perhaps too big. 2017 could see great demand for the lighter weight sheep.

The smart store lamb buyer then, given the blistering trade of the feeding lambs this year, perhaps needs to box clever. I'd suggest if you were putting sheep away on roots with the intention of selling in March / April that a smaller breed at a smaller bought in price might just pay dividends. A Beltex, Hill Cheviot or Blackie bought under £60, which will come back at 38-42kg in the spring, looks the smart money to me. Paying £70 and beyond for a Suffolk which will weigh 55-60kg could be a dangerous game.

So for now the weight is great but the profit for the feeding men to me looks set to come in a small package.

Some say 'when you stop weighing you've stopped paying' but they must also remember that 'P is for Profit and not Pride'.