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AHDB Pig Market Weekly

30 March 2012

AHDB UK Market Survey - 30 March 2012AHDB UK Market Survey - 30 March 2012

There have been an increased number of heavier lambs marketed in 2012, largely as a result of the much improved seasonal conditions and feed availability over the last year.


Increased number of heavy lambs at auction

In addition, having paid considerably higher prices for store lambs, finishers may have been looking to recoup this expenditure by adding additional weight to their lambs.

In week ended 24 March the number of heavy lambs (45.6kg to 52kg) at GB auction markets represented almost 28 per cent of total throughputs while those over 52kg (others) accounted for 11 per cent. At the same time last year the figures were 24 per cent and six per cent respectively. The situation was more prevalent in England where 32 per cent of throughputs were in the heavy category and over 13 per cent weighed more than 52kg. In Wales these figures were 25 and 10 per cent respectively while in Scotland they were 19 and five per cent respectively.

The average price for heavy lambs in week ended 24 March was 195.6p per kg, 19 pence lower than the SQQ average. Lambs weighing over 52kg were 40 pence behind the SQQ value at 175.1p per kg and 10 pence cheaper on the year. In the corresponding week in 2011 heavy lambs traded eight pence below the SQQ while those weighing over 52kg were 25p per kg below the SQQ. In contrast, with more options available and increased competition for lambs in the SQQ weight band in week ended 24 March the price of lambs in all the SQQ weight bands were higher than year earlier values.

While these figures indicate that prices for heavy lambs are lower on a pence per kg basis the higher weights are returning high per head values to producers. In week ended 24 March heavy lambs averaged £94 per head while those over 52kg averaged £98 per head. Although in both cases, these prices represented no change on the corresponding week in 2011, amidst these averages there are numerous reports of old season lambs breaking the £100 per head barrier.

Cattle market trends


Cattle supplies in GB remain tight with prime cattle slaughterings in the first three weeks of March estimated to be seven per cent lower than in the corresponding period of 2011. Reports of cautious consumer spending exerted some downward pressure on prices in week ended 24 March. Despite this, as processors attempt to balance this with ensuring adequate supply, prime heifer and steer prices were broadly level with the week earlier at 339.9p per kg and 340.9p per kg respectively. The young bull price declined four pence on the week to 318.7p per kg.

In week ended 28 March, average prices for prime cattle at GB auction markets increased by two pence on the week to average 191.6p per kg. All categories of prime cattle were more expensive on the week with steer prices recording the largest rise, up four pence to 192.6p per kg.

Reports suggest that cow values are particularly dependent on classification at the present time, with dairy cow prices proving harder to maintain than prices for beef cows. The average price of dairy sired cows at auction eased a penny on the week to 123.1p per kg while the average beef sired cow price strengthened over a penny to 147.1p per kg.

Regional slaughterings

In February 2012 throughputs of prime cattle at UK abattoirs totalled 159,000 head, down six per cent year on year. Continued tight supply of cattle meant that there were reductions in all categories of cattle in most regions of the UK. The exception to this was slaughterings of steers in England and Wales where a small increase was recorded. In the UK as a whole there was a 15 per cent decline in young bull throughputs, heifer numbers decreased by seven per cent, and steers were down by three per cent. Northern Ireland recorded the largest declines in all categories of prime cattle, young bull, heifer, and steer numbers down 17, 16, and 13 per cent respectively.

With carcase weights only marginally above those recorded in February last year, UK beef and veal production also declined by six per cent on the year to 70,100 tonnes. Production from cows and adult bulls was 10 per cent lower year on year at 14,300 tonnes while from prime cattle declined five per cent to 55,500 tonnes.

Sheep market trends


In week ended 24 March the deadweight lamb trade responded to the uplift in the liveweight trade and increased 15 pence on the week to average 458.6p per kg. Supplies were tight with estimated slaughterings down both on the week and on year earlier levels.

Liveweight prices were under some downwards pressure in week ended 28 March, the old season lamb SQQ declined marginally to 213.2p per kg. The excellent weather may have put a dampener on prices as processors and retailers attempt to avoid a repeat of last Easter when the fine weather resulted in a decline in consumer demand for lamb, especially roasting joints. Prices on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were all back on the week. In addition, producers appear to have responded to the better prices on offer in previous weeks. Overall lamb throughputs at GB auction markets were up 13 per cent compared to the week earlier.

New season lambs are steadily coming to market in increasing numbers. The new season lamb SQQ increased eight pence on the week to average 245.2p per kg. This was undoubtedly helped by a number of Easter shows and sales held during the week.

Regional slaughterings

Throughputs of clean sheep in the UK in February totalled 788,000 head, five per cent lower than year earlier levels. All regions recorded a five per cent decline in throughputs, with the exception of Northern Ireland, where slaughtering increased by a third.

Adult sheep slaughtering in the UK were 14 per cent lower on the year at 138,000 head. This was driven by a 14 per cent decline in throughputs in England and Wales where the majority of adult sheep slaughtering take place. Scotland reported a 32 per cent decline in throughputs while in Northern Ireland there was an increase of 15 per cent. The increased throughputs of both sheep and lambs at Northern Irish plants were helped by an 18 per cent decline in the number of live direct to slaughter exports into the Republic.

With increased numbers of heavier lambs being marketed carcase weights increased almost one kilogramme compared with February 2011. As a result the lower slaughterings were offset to some degree and sheepmeat production declined four per cent on the year to 19,100 tonnes. In the year to date production totalled 42,600 tonnes, also four per cent lower than in the corresponding two month period in 2011.

Pig market trends


The continued strengthening in pig values took the DAPP to 142.35p per kg week ended 24 March, up almost a penny on the week. This rise is being driven by a tightening of supply and relative firm demand for pork. As a result of the latest increase the DAPP was over four per cent higher than in the same week last year. There was a marginal change in the quality of pigs at slaughter with both the average weight and probe measurement declining fractionally on the week to 78.9kg and 10.7mm.

Electronic Movement Licenses

The eAML2 electronic pig movement system becomes compulsory from 1 April in England and Wales. To be legal, all pig movements after that date must be reported through the eAML2 system, either by setting up the movement online at or by contacting the eAML2 Bureau Service on 0844 335 8400. The new system replaces the paper AML2 forms, which will no longer be valid.

Regional slaughterings

UK clean pig slaughterings in February totalled 767,000 head, less than one per cent higher than in February 2011. Once again, Scotland recorded an increase in throughputs, with slaughterings up eight per cent to 52,000 head. Throughputs in Northern Ireland were one per cent higher than a year earlier, while numbers in England and Wales were marginally lower. The total number of clean pigs slaughtered in the first two months of the year was three per cent up year on year at 1.71 million head.

Slaughtering of cull sows and boars during February totalled 19,200 head, almost all of which were in England and Wales. This was about six per cent below AHDB’s estimate for February 2011. Despite this decline, throughputs in the year to date were five per cent above year earlier levels, given the high slaughterings in January.

Average clean pig carcase weights in February were marginally lower than a year earlier at 79.3kg. The average carcase weight for cull sows and boars was 150kg, higher than a year earlier. The net result was that total pig meat production in February was unchanged year on year at 64,000 tonnes. Production in the year to date was up two per cent on the year at 142,000 tonnes.

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