An early spring coupled with copious amounts of grass have bolstered lamb growth and finishing rates to such an extent that the pricing pendulum is at last beginning to swing in favour of the producer, with supplies on a downward spiral and average values increasing at most of the live sales this week.

Add to that the fear of a No-Deal Brexit at the end of October which of course has now been re-scheduled to the end of January, and many flockmasters finished lambs earlier than ever to avoid the risk of plummeting prices without an export market.

Such has been the increase in supplies already processed during the year, that numbers slipped on a daily basis last week south of the Border, with the trend more or less continuing into this week – hence values improved at the early markets this week.

And, while numbers forward in England and Wales rose by 15% on Monday and 17% in Scotland, this was not enough to offset the shortage from the previous week.

In Scotland, prime lamb numbers sold through auction marts increased to 6174, with the overall average rising by 0.6p per live kg to 162.6p, with the SQQ up 1.4p to 165.8p.

Numbers sold South of the Border, resulted in the 19,205 cashed levelling at 168.9p, up 6.4p with the SQQ rising 6.4p to 171.9p.

Tuesday saw further improvements too with values north of the Border rising 7.7p to 168.0p on the back of numbers down 7.7% on the week, while the SQQ increased a massive 9.0p per live kg to 173.0p.

Meanwhile in England and Wales, with numbers down a massive 36% on the week on Tuesday, the overall trade rose to 171.3p, up 7.2p, with the SQQ improving 7.5p to 174.8p.

"A lot of people sold their lambs earlier, lighter and leaner this year to avoid Brexit," said Northumberland-based livestock agent, Stephen Kirkup who also exports throughout Europe.

"Instead of selling them at 21kg deadweight with R3H grades, more have been sold at 19kg as R3Ls and it feels as if numbers are tightening. The glut is not over quite yet but it's getting that way and there is plenty of demand for lamb. I do think there are less lambs south of the Border compared to this time last year," added Mr Kirkup.

Significantly, he has also seen a rise in demand for lighter carcases.

"Prices traditionally start to improve at this time of year, but it feels as if there is more demand out there and there is definitely demand for carcases in the 14-17kg range which there never used to be in this country or further afield. Five or six years ago, no-one wanted finished lambs in this range but over the past few weeks these lambs have been selling better," he said adding that the processors are looking to reduce package sizes for lamb, similar to what they have done for beef.

The increased demand for lamb and sheepmeat is not just being seen in this country, but further afield too.

"I feel very positive for the sheep trade as we're seeing increased demand on the home market, in the EU and in other countries outwith the EU for lamb shoulder and whole carcases," said Mr Kirkup.

Archie Hamilton, head sheep auctioneer at Lawrie and Symington's Lanark centre is also positive for the sector when store lambs have been 30-40% up on the year, with the medium quality and smaller long-keep lambs showing the biggest rises at £4-£5 and £5-£7 per head respectively.

"There is a bit more demand for prime lambs now that we are through the biggest glut. A lot of the over fat lambs have been cashed so the export-type and better quality lambs were definitely sharper this week," said Mr Hamilton.

"Store lamb numbers and prices are up on the year as are breeding sheep and cull ewes so there is a bit more optimism about the job. I've never seen cull ewes as dear as they have been in October and they are too dear to feed or breed from so they are all being killed which helps the industry.

"I do think the sheep trade will sharpen for the rest of the year, maybe not every week, but I do think it will firm," concluded Mr Hamilton.

Caledonian Marts' prime sheep sale at Stirling on Tuesday enjoyed the best of the early trading, with the overall average up 9p per kg to 168p with the SQQ levelling at 172.4p, up a massive 12p on the previous seven days.

"There was a strong demand for good export lambs in the 39-43kg range with plenty of good lambs with tight coats selling between 190-200p per kg," said Alastair Logan, sheep auctioneer and auction operations manager at Caledonian Marts.

"Numbers were the exact same as they were at the same sale last year and the lambs would by 6p per kg up on the year or £2.50-£3.00 per head up, but then we've sold 15% more lambs throughout October compared to 2018.

"I am a bit worried for November as I really don't know where the numbers are going to come from when so many farmers especially south of the Border, have sold their lambs earlier," concluded Mr Logan.