The issue of lamb weight limits was raised by farmers at the IFA hill sheep conference who said loosening the bands could deliver extra money without a price increase.
Irish Country Meat's (ICM) group procurement manager James Smith spoke at the conference, where he was quizzed by farmers on weight cut-off points.
Leitrim IFA sheep chair Kevin Comiskey said if farmers got even 1kg extra on a 21kg carcase, at the present price of €4.70/kg it would be worth an extra 22c/kg.
Comiskey said: “I think we should be paid up to 23kg or 24kg.
"If they’re being killed out overweight I doubt very much they’re being given out. There are tonnes of meat going in and we’re not getting paid for it.”
Smith said ICM had moved to 21.5kg as of last Monday.
He understood that people would always want more, but stressed on the factory side that their customers wanted smaller cuts.
He said while Irish consumers prefer a larger cut with more fat, the home market accounted for just 25% of sales.
In contrast, the continental market wanted lighter lambs with less fat.
“We don’t go to challenge people and have joy in cutting lambs off at 22kg. We can take it so far.
"We can have situations where lambs at 22kg or 23kg have 2kg of kidney fat, which is worth absolutely nothing,” Smith said.
“So when we talk about not getting paid for weight, equally when we’re doing fixed-unit price legs, the situation is the spec is 2.3kg to 2.6kg. You can supply legs over 2.6kg, but you don’t get paid for it. That’s the way it works.”
Spring 2019 was the most challenging year to meet customer requirements, according to Smith.
He said ICM reached a point where 75% of lambs were over the maximum weight and were averaging 25kg to 26kg.
“The expectation last spring was the price would be similar to 2018.
"That was never going to be the case, because 2018 was a five-year high for that particular period,” Smith said.