Due to the current lockdown, restricted movement and continuing cases of Covid-19, the high-flying sheep values have come crashing down again this week.

The prime sheep trade took a big hit last week, but there had been optimism that it would bounce back this week – but this has not happened, with trade remaining on the low levels due to a lack of demand. Stricter instructions for the public to stay at home has impacted on lamb sales in retail outlets, plus, with no restaurants open, lamb is off the menu for many it seems.

One bright spot is that it is forcing people to buy locally – which is a positive.

Archie Hamilton, lead sheep auctioneer at Lawrie and Symington’s Lanark centre, commented: “It is crucial we are realistic about the situation, but we have got to make the best outcome of a bad situation, without panicking. We are taking the situation day by day and reviewing it as it comes.

“There is very limited trade at the moment, and it is impossible for it to go back to where it was. Supermarkets are now in control, with very few going for export and the Muslim trade is also down – the big retailers are ‘the kings’ just like in the year of foot-and-mouth.

“Trade might come back a bit, but I don’t see it changing rapidly with all the uncertain restrictions and with the government not being able to give us answers – how are we meant to,” he added.

Colin Slessor, deputy head of livestock and sheep auctioneer at ANM, Thainstone, also witnessed a fall in this week’s primestock sale. “With very little demand on the export side of things, this has restricted numbers throughout the prime market, causing not only for us to sell fewer prime sheep this week but causing the price to take a big tumble. It was back £30 a head.

“It is difficult to foresee demand increasing greatly as we are now too late in the season for doing so and with the strict movements in place for the coming days, it will be too late for the trade to rally before Easter,” he continued.

“With this in mind, there are still a good number of sheep to come out in this area and times do look tough, but we need to find a way to get these away for our customers.”

Longtown sheep auctioneer, John Walton, also added that the poor trade and reduced numbers were due to the downward turn in the export market and limited retail demand.

“In these uncertain times, there will be a short lived trade over the coming week, with Easter on the horizon. As for the long term, there are still plenty of sheep to be moved, it doesn’t look so positive for the future,” said John. “There are so many uncertainties that we need to take it day by day to overcome the situation.”

Cast sheep prices have also taken a tumble, though there remains hope that this and the prime trade will be bolstered again by the forthcoming Muslim festivals of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, which begin at the end of April and end in the last week of May.




The Scottish Farmer remains dedicated to bringing you all the latest news and views from across our industry, plus up-to-date information on the impacts of Covid-19.

If you are unable to get out to pick up your weekly read, please support us by subscribing to our print edition, delivered direct to your door, from as little at £35 - or consider a digital subscription from just £2 for 2 months.

To arrange either follow this link: 


Thanks – and stay safe