Forget the doom and gloom surrounding the sheep sector with the ongoing risk of a 'no deal Brexit', prime and indeed breeding sheep values remain relatively buoyant and look set to remain so, as supplies dwindle.

With a shortage in the availability of both finished old and new season lamb, values improved in both sections at the early live markets in Scotland this week, with the overall average and SQQ for hoggs rising 1.2p and 0.6p per live kg on Monday, to 195p and 206p, respectively.

New season lambs also improved significantly on the back of reduced numbers on the week, rising 17.5p and 9.6p, with the overall and SQQ levelling at 235.3p and 241.1p, respectively.

On Tuesday, old season lambs rose 2.4p and 5.3p to level at 197p with an SQQ of 207p, respectively, with the new season SQQ rising almost 11p, to 246.8p, while the overall was 10p lower.

"Prime sheep are still a good trade because the numbers are just not there. Prices are down on this time last year, but they were never going to get to the same level – 2018 was a one off," Alastair Logan, sheep auctioneer at Caledonian Marts, told The Scottish Farmer.

"The sheep job is not too bad when you can get £100 a head for a spring lamb and ewes and lambs are selling well and on a par with last year when there is plenty of grass about," he added.

Prices are on the up south of the Border too, with the overall old season lamb average working out at 197.7p, on Monday, a rise of 4.4p on the week for 38% fewer, while new season improved 9.2p to 244.6p, for 13% less.

On Tuesday, the overall hogg average levelled at 194p (+4.2p) for 17% fewer with spring lambs rising 6.8p to 245p.

And, with the mild spring and increase in grass growth compared to 2018, breeding sheep prices are on a par with last year's bumper levels.

On Tuesday, C and D Auction Marts sold 1250 ewes and hoggs with lambs, at their show and sale at Longtown, where outfits were £4-£8 dearer on the week.

Show lots sold to £98 per life for the first prize pen of Texel cross hoggs from D Carr and Son, High Wood, while the red ticket holders amongst the Mules sold to £95 from Little Blencowe.

Outwith the show, a Half-bred ewe hogg with single lamb from Yewtree made £91 per life.

Similarly, at Carlisle on Monday, Harrison and Hetherington's sale improved £8.50 on the week, with a Texel cross hogg with Beltex lamb at foot from Messrs Ramsey, Dockray Hall, leading at £100 per life.

All breeding units were dearer with Mule hoggs with twins selling to £74 per life or £222 per unit from Yew Tree Farm.

The hope is UK sheep farmers will continue to enjoy improved prices too as China's influence over the global sheep meat market has and continues to rise. Such has been the demand for sheep in country, that China accounts for approximately a third of global sheepmeat consumption.

Not surprisingly, it has become the main market for exports from both New Zealand and Australia, thereby reducing the amount available to the EU.

Add to that the major expansion of a processor in China to accommodate more sheep meat products due to the rising demand for convenience and snack foods in cities, and there is huge potential for increased supplies either from down under or further afield.

The Chinese are also having to source alternative meats with the ongoing decline of the national pig herd due to African Swine Fever, which is further fuelling the demand for sheepmeat. Hence, there are reports of sheep prices climbing to their highest level since 2015.

Good news at last.