PRIME lamb values have slowly but surely been nudging north over the past month with prices now the highest since the beginning of September and set to rise further on the run up to Christmas.

On Monday, average values in Scotland rose 5.2p per kg on the week through the live auction ring to average 175.4p, with the SQQ up further at 182.4p (+7.1p).

Prices increased further on Tuesday too, with the overall average cashing in at 178.9p, (+11.5p), while the SQQ North of the Border was almost 10p per kg higher at 187.6p (+16.7p).

Mirroring these values, liveweight prices south of the Border also rose this week, with Monday's SQQ up 4.8p on the week at 182.9p, with the overall average in England and Wales, rising a similar amount to 178.3p.

Tuesday saw the SQQ level at 185.2p and the overall average at 181.0p up 5.9p and 6.1p per kg, respectively.

"Prime lamb values always rise on the run up to Christmas but this year's increase appears more pronounced as there are definitely fewer lambs on the market," Alastair Logan, sheep auctioneer for Caledonian Marts, told The Scottish Farmer.

"Our sale at Stirling on Tuesday levelled at 180p overall – up 18p per live kg on the week and 4-5p per kg ahead of the same sale last year."

However, he added that not all lambs were attracting the same premium, with heavyweight lambs selling similar on the week.

"Buyers are looking for 39-43kg lambs and if they are the right type, they'll go to more than 190p per kg for them."

With fewer lambs on the ground UK wide, due to the poor spring and the Beast from the East, Mr Logan added that more lambs than normal had also been sold earlier as a result of the shortage of keep and the increase in feed costs.

"With feed prices up £40-£60 per tonne on the year, more sheep farmers have already sold their lambs, either as stores or deadweight, rather than fork out £300 per tonne to feed them through the winter."

In saying that, store lambs are also well up on the year, with those who have the extra keep especially in the south of the country, able to fork out that bit more for them in the expectation that prices will increase further early next year.

"Our Martinmas store lamb sale of 10,000 head on Monday was £3 per head up on the year, with Blackies up £6 per head, but then there was only a third of the Blackies forward this year compared to 2017 following the poor spring.

"Our top pen – 90 Beltex lambs from Martin Kennedy, Lurgan – sold as one for £99 per head, to the south of England, on the back of social media. We put a video of the lambs on our Facebook page and within three hours, there had been 1200 views!" said Mr Logan.

Head sheep auctioneer at Lawrie and Symington's Lanark market, Archie Hamilton, was also confident for the sheep sector.

"Prime lamb prices always rise towards Christmas with the greatest demand for those under 45kg. We've been selling a lot of lightweight lambs for export markets in Belgium, Italy and Portugal and I would expect values to rise further for the right type of lambs in the 38-44kg range.

"Store lambs are also very dear as finishers look to cash in on the expectations of a shortage next year. People still have to eat, with or without Brexit deal," he said.