With factory prices for lambs holding firm this week, 2020 is set to be a record year for sheep prices.
To the week ending 12 December 2020 data supplied by the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) shows that prices for lambs and hoggets have averaged 451.4p/kg, which is 52p/kg higher than 2019, and well ahead of the five-year average of 404p/kg. Across 2020, farmers received £11 more for a 21kg carcase than in the previous year.
The current trade remains strong, with plants adding 5p/kg to quotes, which now stand at 475p/kg. However, price deals are running 10p/kg to 15p/kg ahead as competition intensifies between processors on both sides of the Irish border for a dwindling supply of slaughter-fit animals.
Deals of 485p/kg to 490p/kg are on offer this week to keep pace with Irish plants paying €5.75/kg to 23kg.
In the cattle trade, with factories only killing three days this week, prices remain steady, with base quotes at 368p/kg to 370p/kg for U-3 grades.
However, deals are on offer, with steers and heifers moving off farm around 380p/kg.
R3 grading cull cows are holding at 270p/kg, but deals start from 290p/kg with up to 310p/kg available for bigger numbers.
In Scotland, beef prices have hardened slightly as the closing of marts for Christmas temporarily disrupts supplies of finished stock. Plants have added 5p/kg to base quotes, bringing R4L steers and heifers to 375p/kg, although 380p/kg is available for bigger finishers.
To the week ending 19 December 2020, NI factory prices paid for U3 grading steers in 2020 have averaged 356.3p/kg, with U3 heifers at 360p/kg.
With factory prices for lambs holding firm this week, 2020 is set to be a record year for sheep prices
Across the year, U3 steers were worth 20p/kg more than in 2019, which works out at £76 on a 380kg carcase.
For heifers, the year on year price difference is 18p/kg, which is £59 on a 330kg carcase. However, despite a sustained period of higher beef prices from early summer onwards, 2020 cattle prices will fall short of 2018 levels when the trade across the year was the highest ever recorded in NI.
Back then, U3 steers averaged 361.4p/kg with heifers finishing on 364.7p/kg.
Since 2015, U3 steer prices have averaged 347.5p/kg with heifers at 351.p/kg.
It is a similar picture for cows, with R3 grades averaging 287.2p/kg in 2020, up 18p/kg on the 2019 figure, but 9p/kg behind what was paid in 2018.