Despite claims of major disruption at Border control points after the UK officially left the EU – with or without a ‘deal’ – trade to date appears to be relatively unaffected with lamb values again rising on the week due to increased demand.

A week into 2021 and there has been no sign of queuing lorryloads of traffic waiting to cross The Channel to Europe, or food shortages in UK supermarkets as was predicted post December 31, due to the increased paperwork required for all exports.

Instead, and in the face of major stockpiling on both sides of water on the run up to the end of December 2020, prime old season lamb values have risen to near record levels for this time of year.

On Sunday, the first sale of 2021 at Stirling, United Auctions sold 3716 prime hoggs to average 231.36p per kg, up a massive 12p per kg on the week when 6664 head levelled at 219.42p.

“It is still very early days yet when you think it was a holiday in Scotland on Monday and there is not the traffic on the road because of the lockdown, but exports do seem to be getting through,” George Purves, managing director at United Auctions, told The Scottish Farmer.

“There has been a concentrated effort to sell finished lambs before the end of December, so numbers are tight for this time of year which will help support prices for the next six weeks or so.

“Lockdown should also help as food is the only luxury people have just now when they can’t go on holiday or eat out in restaurants. People are having to cook at home more and when they do that, they tend to buy more than what they would get in a restaurant, which also helps,” added Mr Purves.

It has been a similar situation at all the live sheep sales this week too, with Ayr, Lanark, St Boswells and Carlisle, also witnessing increased averages on Monday.

At Ayr, 850 hoggs averaged 240.3p with an SQQ of 244.1p per kg while the 2053 old season lambs at Lanark cashed in at 241.4p – the dearest trade of the season with an SQQ 245p. The 674 hoggs at St Boswells improved by 11p per kg on the week at 233p with the SQQ of 241p and Carlisle averaged 245p.

Trade was just as good on Tuesday at Wallets Marts’ sale at Castle Douglas where 1977 hoggs averaged 240.36p with an SQQ of 243.9p, with values at Dingwall and Highland Marts’ select sale at Dingwall up a massive 35p per kg on the week to level at 233.9p for 218. Caledonian Marts’ sale at Stirling levelled at 235p.

Bruce Walton, head of livestock at Wallets Marts, pointed out that demand for export lambs was up on the previous week and that the UK officially leaving the EU on December 31, had not affected overall values.

“We had a tremendous sale at Castle Douglas, with 65% of the lambs selling for the export market. Heavy lambs were also making good money when more people are eating lamb at home, but they didn’t rise as much as export types,” said Mr Walton.

The improved prime trade also bolstered the store market at Castle Douglas, with the sale on Monday up £5-£8 per head on the last event two weeks previous through Wallets Marts.

In contrast to most new years, deadweight beef cattle prices are also heading north, albeit on the back of reduced numbers forward.

As is expected at this time of year, manufacturing beef prices improved, with the cow trade in Scotland rising a massive 22p per deadweight kg to 257.0p for the week ending January 2, while young bulls saw a 10p increase at 356.3p.

Steers and heifers remained stable at 380.0p and 380.8p (+1.0p), respectively.