The mild, dry winter and early spring is at long last catching up with sheep farmers, with an increased lamb crop that is not only putting pressure on current prices but  likely to affect trade well into 2018.
Government figures show that not only has the Scottish lamb crop increased by 1.9%, but the total UK number of sheep in the UK as at June 1, improved by 2% on the year to 34.6m head, making it the largest national flock since 2006.
Total number of lambs under a year old on UK farms also increased 2% year on year to 17.2m, which is the largest number at this point since 2005.
Furthermore, with an increase in the UK breeding flock, again by 2%, to 16.6m head – the largest since 2006 – next year’s prime lamb market is likely to be well supplied. 
Prime lamb prices are already under pressure and have been for the last few weeks, with values now below those of 2016 at this time and falling.
On Monday, the overall average in Scotland slipped 7.6p per live kg on the week, to level at 159.3p, while south of the Border, prices fell 8.7p, to 163.4p. More worryingly, however, is the fact that up until the beginning of October, throughputs were actually 12% down on the year.
According to Stuart Ashworth, head of economics at Quality Meat Scotland, there are a number of reasons why the lamb trade has struggled in recent weeks, including the prolonged spell of wet weather which has reduced the nutritional value of grass. 
He also highlighted the exchange rate as a reason. “More lambs have been exported to Europe with a more favourable exchange rate, but the problem is there is not the same demand for lamb in France. Lamb prices there are already 2.5% less than they were this time last year and prices are lower in other parts of the EU, too,” said Mr Ashworth.
On a more positive note, Archie Hamilton, sheep auctioneer at C and D Auction Marts’ Longtown centre, blamed farmers for not finishing their lambs properly for the falling value in the prime market.
“Good well fleshed lambs are still a good trade,” said Mr Hamilton. “There are far too many lambs underfinished being sold in the prime market which brings the overall average down and enables the deadweight centres to keep their prices low. 
“We see 30-40% of lambs underfinished, with lambs in the 36-44kg weight range lacking flesh coming forward and realising little more than current store trade. 
“This is damaging the weekly average as the best fleshed lambs are making some 10-20p per kg more, therefore distorting the overall market average.”
Instead, Mr Hamilton urged producers to feed their lamb crop before bringing them to the market, rather than sell them straight off grass.
“The two-tier trade between those well fleshed, finished lambs and those that are too lean is very evident in the market. It would definitely be worthwhile for producers to finish their lambs on a bit of feeding when the goodness in the grass is long gone,” he said.
Mr Hamilton pointed out that the best lambs at Longtown were making 230-260p per kg, or £95-£104 per head.
Similarly, he said that big heavy ewes were being well sought after, with leaner hill ewes proving more difficult to cash.