Buyers of live lambs at the auctions, still the main source of retail sector supply, were having to increase their bids early in the week despite some reports of reduced demand from exporters. The broad outlook is assumed to be a bottoming out of prices quite soon. A seasonal downtrend in late summer as numbers build up is usually reversed during October, with the strength of the pre-Christmas market dependent on an array of influences including producers holding some stock back as a gamble on New Year hogget values. At the moment prices are on average almost 20% higher than a year ago, supported by the slightly reduced kill and indirectly helped by the tight pork market. MAFF's farm census figures appear to confirm MLC forecasts of slightly fewer lambs available for the rest of the season than in 1999. {{MEAT }}