Sheep prices are set to stay high as the Eid al-Adha festival has pushed a significant proportion of the yearly lamb crop through factories in recent weeks, the IFA has claimed.

The IFA has said that high prices have led many farmers to move lambs at lighter weights than previous years, reducing the volume of lamb supplied and leaving a smaller number of lambs remaining for sale later in the year.

This has prevented a ‘glut’ of mid-season lamb coming on-stream over the late summer, as many had expected and has left market conditions favourable for farmers with lambs still to be sold, the IFA sheep chair Sean Dennehy has said.

“Farmers have moved lambs at lighter weights this year, with average carcase weights back 0.5kg for the year.

“This has reduced the volume of sheepmeat in the marketplace, a situation replicated in the UK and ensures there won't be a glut of lambs to come out,” he commented.

International markets

A drop in the quantities of lamb available for supply in the UK is also expected to help sustain current prices later into the year.

It is expected that there will be a drop of 7% in the amount of lamb supplied in the UK this year, keeping prices up and increasing demand for exports, the IFA has stated.

“Lamb prices are high in the UK and France, ensuring Irish lamb remains very competitive in the marketplace.

“The reduced volumes of lamb imported from New Zealand to the EU market, a feature of the past year, will continue as New Zealand exports are directed to the Chinese market,” Dennehy said.

The onset of breeding sales will also increase prices by creating competition with factories for ewe lambs.

Covering costs

The sheep chair added that farmers may not gain as much as one might expect from the record-high lamb prices, as input costs have also taken a hike over the past 12 months.

“Lamb prices have performed well this year, but, in reality, it is badly needed to offset the cost of production and the increase in input costs that occurred on farms over the past year,” he stated.

Dennehy concluded his remarks to sheep farmers by urging them to sell hard and keep lambs moving as they come fit to capitalise on the favourable market conditions.

Find the latest report on the sheep trade here.