Despite increasing numbers of finished lambs coming forward, prices are certainly on the up having risen by more than 10p per live kg on the back of growing demand, at the early sales this week.

On Monday, finished lambs sold through the live ring in Scotland increased by a massive 12.3p on the previous seven days to level at 213.8p – and for a 30% upsurge in numbers.

Averages values were the exact same on Tuesday, for a 10% increase in numbers, with prices up 10.2p on the previous week in Scotland.

It has been a similar situation south of the Border too, with live sales on Monday recording an average up 13.7p at 216.4p, which slipped marginally on Tuesday to 215.9p, for an extra 28.5% in numbers compared to the same sale the previous seven days.

Having dipped somewhat the previous week, prime lamb averages are now back up at 40p per live kg ahead of the same time last year, and 35p above the five-year average.

However, while many would like to think it is a result of Love Lamb Week, those in the know reckon it is more to do with the increased export trade and reduced numbers available.

At Craig Wilson’s sale at Ayr on Monday, some 2129 prime lambs sold to average just shy of 217p per kg, with top prices of 246.3p and £126 per head paid.

“Everything appears to be selling well but then no one is going abroad, more people are staying at home to holiday and the export market is strong,” said Drew Kennedy, sheep auctioneer with Craig Wilson.

“Every meat company is looking for lamb, mostly because the numbers are not there. Farmers have been selling away at their 40-41kg lambs every week when the price has been good, instead of holding onto them when the trade is bad and taking them to heavier weights for later in the year.”

Add to that the increased demand for lightweight lambs to Italy and Spain, which are valued at up to 195p per kg for 30kg Blackface tup lambs, and he said there are a lot more lambs out of the equation compared to previous years, which points to more positive prime sheep sales as the season progresses.

“This time last year, lightweight lambs, or ‘weigh and pay lambs’ were struggling to make 135-140p, but there’s far more demand for them this year and a lot more have been sold.

“The breeding sheep trade is also holding up because more of the gimmers that would normally be sold, were cashed earlier in the year as prime hoggs before lockdown when prices were so high,” added Mr Kennedy.

Backing up these statements, Ali Logan, from Caledonian Marts’ Stirling told The Scottish Farmer, there was a shortage of all types of prime lambs when prices have remained firm since the start of season.

Just as importantly, looking long-term, he said more lambs have already been cashed compared to 2019.

“We have had some fantastic sales here. We’ll have sold 40% more prime lambs since the start of the season and 70% more store lambs compared to this time last year, purely because the trade has been so good, and, it’s all driven by the increase in the fat trade.

“Our prime lambs averaged 209.7p per kg on Tuesday, which is up 6.4p on the week, and 53p on the year, or £22.78 per head. Heavy lambs are again in demand too with the 43+kg lambs averaging more at 213p.”

Furthermore, he said that with prices holding up, more flockmasters are selling through the live ring rather than selling deadweight.

“As soon as prime lambs work away at £85 per head or more, we see more people selling live which is always a good thing for the overall trade and it all follows through to breeding sheep and the store lamb market,” said Mr Logan.

He added that Caledonian Marts’ store lamb sale on Wednesday was £1.50-£2 per head up on the week, with most lambs up £10-£12 per head on the year.

“First, second and third draw lambs are all up into double figures and even the rubbish is up £1-£2 on the year,” he said.

Prime lambs have been flyer south of the Border too, with Harrison and Hetherington’s sale of 2900 at Kirkby Stephen on Tuesday night selling to £150 for a 48kg Beltex cross lamb or 326.8p per kg for a 41kg Beltex cross lamb.

Such was the trade that overall averages levelled at of 225.4p per kg – up a massive 59p on the same sale last year.