There have been more old season lambs this year compared to last, and they have been heavier.
The number of finished old season lambs sold at auction rose by 4.4% in the period from January up until the end of May 2017, compared to last year, and the number of them being classified as heavier than the SQQ rose by 12% year on year.
The analysis below uses data collected from auction markets in England, Wales and Scotland and excludes not only numbers of finished ewes and rams, but also old season lambs presented at auction after May. In this way it is possible to describe how the season developed for clean sheep, and how their characteristics changed throughout the year.
Pasture conditions through the year June 2016 to May 2017 led to lambs finishing more slowly than the year before, producing fewer heavy lambs at the beginning of the season, and a higher share amongst those carried over as old season lambs into 2017. A smaller proportion of new season lambs fell outside SQQ weight band at the beginning of the year, than the year before.
This phenomenon is largely explained by lower numbers of heavy lambs being around in those months compared with the previous year; with approximately a third fewer lambs overall being classed as heavier than the liveweight SQQ in the period June to September. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a greater number of heavier lambs started to appear later in the season, after Christmas as old season lambs.
So although the total number of lambs finished throughout the year 2016/17 was higher than the year before, and the monthly profile of their delivery was quite similar, the weight bands in which they were classified showed much more variation.