The latest Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (ADHB) sheep market update shows sheepmeat production increased by 10%, or 2,300t, in October to reach 25,200t.

The significant increase compared with September 2023 levels was underpinned by throughput increasing by approximately 100,000 head and recorded at 1.1m head.

However, this fails to highlight that production remains below the five-year average, with throughput running 113,000 head lower. The AHDB says this reflects the slower throughput of lambs this season.

Similar to Ireland, performance has been hampered by inclement weather, with many finishing systems in Britain based on finishing lambs on forage crops.

Reduced throughput

The AHDB report adds that tighter domestic supplies combined with favourable import and export flows have maintained a level of tightness in lamb supplies in the market and "likely benefitted prices" in recent months.

Farmgate returns have trended well above 2022 levels.

UK sheepmeat production (source AHDB).

The latest AHDB market analysis for the week ending 25 November shows prices holding firm at an average of £5.88/kg or the equivalent of €6.83/kg – significantly ahead of Irish farmgate prices. This compares with £5.50/kg (€6.39/kg) for the corresponding week in 2022.

In addition to lower levels of throughput, average carcase weights are also trending lower, with the average carcase weight recorded at 19.5kg in October, some 0.2kg lower than in September.

Adult sheep slaughterings are also running lower year on year, with throughput in October of 144,100 head some 13,600 sheep, or 9%, lower.