An end to the 50% bargains of a couple of months ago Lamb market back to normal Poor quality hoggets are still coming off farms in annoying numbers, while producers complain buyers will not bid strongly enough for new season lambs to compensate for the unexpectedly difficult spring weather. In other words, the market is almost back to normal ­ lamb and hogget prices averaged across the board offer purchasers discounts of only about 20% against 1997 costs, not the 50% bargains enjoyed a couple of months ago. Traders are already starting to focus on autumn prospects. Will memories of the recent hogget disaster dampen farmers' speculative fervour? History suggests it will, implying an easier late 1998 market because producers will be less tempted to carry stock beyond optimum slaughter weights as a wager on a back-end seasonal price bounce. More sympathetic wholesalers point out price is not the only factor influencing farmers' marketing strategies. Some lambs are held back to tidy up pastures, a lawnmowing service paid for in a low hogget price, but perhaps justified by more productive grazing conditions next time. {{MEAT }}