Brexit effect clear in lamb throughput at auction marts
“Auction market throughput over the past year shows Brexit influencing sheep farmer decision-making,” said AHDB’s lead analyst for red meat, Duncan Wyatt.
“Lamb crops in the past three years have all been similar sizes, but throughput at GB auction markets shows noticeably different profiles.”
Wyatt said: “Prior to the UK’s EU-departure date on 1st January, throughput was elevated, often breaking five-year highs and rarely below the five-year average. Subsequently, old season lamb throughput in the early part of 2021 was noticeably low. This probably would have been even clearer had COVID-19 not disrupted trade in early 2020. A higher share of the 2020 crop was killed in 2020 than is typical, limiting the supply of lambs available on farm. There were also difficulties exporting lamb in the early months of this year.
“Interestingly, as we now start to come to the end of the 2020 crop, throughputs have returned to levels more in line with previous years. Export volumes to the EU have begun to recover, perhaps supporting demand. Poor grass growth in late April/early May has likely also slowed finishing.
“At this stage, we expect the 2021 lamb crop to be a similar size again. Coming into the year, we had expected that the pattern of slaughter would return to seasonal norms. However, if lamb prices remain elevated, then the sale of the crop could again be weighted more towards the autumn, as farmers take advantage of high prices while they last.”