Processors have cut lamb prices by 40p/kg to 50p/kg mid-week, wiping £8 to £10 per head off the value of a 21kg carcase.

Base quotes now stand at 470p/kg, although farmers report that 480p/kg is still on offer.

Supplies of lambs are more widely available, as marts resumed trading following last week’s holidays. Dry conditions and the lack of grass in the eastern parts of NI has also pushed more numbers on to the market, albeit at much lighter weights. Agents are advising farmers to be much more selective when drafting to avoid having under-finished lambs.

While there is a small backlog of factory-fit sheep to work through this week, some agents expect prices to harden again in NI, given the differential to Irish and British prices.

In the Republic of Ireland, base quotes are at €6.10/kg, with lambs moving at up to €6.30/kg, which converts to between 498p/kg and 514p/kg.

In Britain, factory prices are typically 540p/kg to 550p/kg, highlighting the strength of processing demand that is still in the market.

Beef market steady

In contrast to lamb, the beef trade is holding firm in NI, with base quotes of 394p/kg and prime cattle generally moving from 400p/kg to 410p/kg. Cull cows are typically making 330p/kg to 340p/kg for good quality suckler-bred animals.

The mart trade for cattle remains buoyant, although there has been a slight increase in throughput of mid-weight and forward stores where farmers are short of grass. However, prices are holding around the 230p/kg mark for good quality lots, with specialist finishers still keen to secure stock.

Factory throughput

Following on from a warning from the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) that factory lines could be forced to shut down as a result of staff being forced to self-isolate after being ‘pinged’ by the COVID-19 app, counterparts in NI are not immune to the issue.

Several farmers report they have faced delays in getting cattle and sheep slaughtered. The shortage of staff on factory lines is limiting the number of animals that can be processed daily, but has had no negative impact on prices.

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