Sheep farmers selling prime hoggs and cull ewes are being rewarded with near record breaking prices which look set to rise further due to the reduced numbers on the market and a late Easter.

Figures from AHDB show the number of old season lambs slaughtered last week was 18,000 lower than the previous week at 184,400 head, which in turn was 38,500 head less than the same week last year.

Archie Hamilton, head of sheep sales, auctioneer at Lawrie and Symington’s Lanark centre, said both hoggs and ewes were at near record levels on Monday, which produced an overall average of 240p per kg and an SQQ of 246p – just 15p shy of firm’s previous high of 255p in 2018.

Furthermore, he added that there will not be the numbers or volume of lamb available for sale in Easter, which is in April and some of the crucial Muslim festivals, which run from April to late May.

“Prices could reach the record highs set in 2018 because one thing that is certain, is there is going to be no surplus volume, so trade will remain strong until Easter. There is no way it can be anything else,” said Mr Hamilton.

He added that the cull ewe trade has been equally buoyant. “Ewes have been an unbelievable price. We sold 1700 last week to level at £92, which included 700 Blackface ewes. It is phenomenal to see the trade they are selling at.

“There are not the same numbers of sheep coming forward compared to previous years, but if the trade remains as it is, producers will sell more give that the prices are as good as they are,” he said.

Further north, Colin Slessor, deputy head livestock and sheep auctioneer at Thainstone’s ANM, is equally positive about the trade which in his view will carry on until Easter at least.

“Old season lamb numbers are well up through the first two months of the year, mainly as a result of some finishers selling earlier with others switching back to deadweight to capitalise on higher prices especially for heavier lambs.

“Last week’s lamb trade at Thainstone levelled at 233.1p per kg, a massive rise of 55p on the year. It looks like there will be a more orderly run of lambs from now until Easter with shows of 4000 head currently being the norm.

“The ewe trade is also on a high with record prices being achieved especially for heavier continental types,” added Mr Slessor.

C and D Markets Longtown’s sheep auctioneer, John Walton, added that the trade is on the back of reduced numbers and the need for livestock auction systems.

“Prime hogg numbers are slightly down on the year, with trade holding firm at 240p, that’s plus 50p per kg on the year. Deadweight firms are trying their upmost to reduce the price of hoggs every week and if it wasn’t for the live auction system, hoggs would be trading a lot less than what they are.

“Cast ewes are also selling at extreme rates with ewes averaging north of £100 at Longtown, being plus £30 on the year. This trade will continue to prosper until the next influx of yeld ewes late summer,” concluded Mr Walton.

The deadweight trade is already at a record high for this time of year, at 540p compared to a previous high in 2018 of under 500p per kg. See graph above.