Competition for lambs has ramped up over the last week, with agents starting to purchase higher numbers for exporting live.

Agents have been active in mart sales, with prices rising up to between €4.80/kg and €5/kg liveweight for the best-quality lambs on offer.

Some marts are also acting as collection points where lambs can be weighed live.

The best demand is for well-fleshed continental lambs weighing 42kg to 48kg, with top prices ranging from €200 to €240 per head.

Demand for lambs

The demand for lambs is being driven by tight supplies in key export markets and the upcoming Islamic religious festival of Eid al-Adha, which runs from 16 to 20 June.

Speaking at a weigh-in of lambs in Tullow Mart on Wednesday, manager Eric Driver said: “We have seen factories trying to exert downward pressure on the trade for the last two weeks. There are significant live export opportunities and with the right support, the trade has the potential to return an honest price to producers.”

Increased demand has also been witnessed in Northern Ireland, with buyers from Britain attending marts in the last week and purchasing sheep to export live.

This has driven live prices in excess of deadweight returns, with top prices equating to £8.30/kg to £8.50/kg (€9.65/kg to €9.90/kg equivalent).

Farmgate lamb returns in Britain are reported in excess of £9/kg, opening up the opportunity to export lambs live and return a margin.

Factories in Northern Ireland have increased their prices by 10p/kg to 20p/kg as they bid to keep pace with the live trade. Base quotes are at £8/kg to £8.10/kg, with groups and regular sellers securing higher prices.