Factories are freely offering €7.60/kg and deals on transport to secure lambs, with higher deals available for larger numbers, IFA sheep chair Sean Dennehy has said.

“Supplies of suitable finished lambs are tight and market conditions are strong. Hogget supplies have significantly decreased in recent weeks, reducing the number of sheep available for slaughter,” Dennehy said.

“The kill to date is running 8% behind last year and with the cold weather slowing lamb finish, the number of suitable lambs available remains low.

"A total of 1,001,500 sheep have been processed in the first 22 weeks of 2021, which is running 78,855 behind the same period in 2020.”

Maximum returns

The IFA highlights that imports from NI for direct slaughter have totalled 91,314, which is back by almost 30,000 on last year.

The sheep chair said a combination of flock building in New Zealand and Australia, and strong import demand from China, is contributing to a global shortage of sheepmeat.

“The food service sector demand will continue to grow over the summer months and tight supplies will create favourable market conditions for lamb,” Dennehy continued.

“The mart trade has also strengthened, with good-quality cull ewes in demand. Prices are comparable or above what factories are paying in some cases.”

Dennehy said farmers should avoid selling underweight lambs and sell hard to maximise returns in a positive market for sheepmeat.