The sheep sectors across Ireland, the UK and further afield in Europe are experiencing one of the richest veins of form on record with the performance of sheepmeat markets.

Farmgate prices in Ireland are running €35 to €40 ahead of the corresponding period in 2020, while prices in Northern Ireland are running in the region of £30 per head higher.

The sustained period of positive market performance is giving early-season producers a well-needed boost, while a buoyant hogget and cull ewe trade has also inserted much more optimism into the sector.

While market performance is hard to accurately forecast, the predictions for the next few months are positive, with Eid al-Adha (19 to 23 July) likely to boost demand in mid-July, while one would suspect store lamb buyers will return full of confidence as the year progresses.

Handling equipment manufacturers and suppliers, agri-merchants and fencing contractors all report that farmers are willing to invest in their farming system to improve efficiency, increase animal performance and reduce labour input. The higher value of sheep is affording farmers more opportunity to invest in animal health treatments, while there is also a renewed focus in minimising mortality and, on some farms, pushing performance to have a better chance of getting lambs away at a higher price.

The only blot on an otherwise clean copybook for 2021 is continued pressure on wool markets. An article this week paints a gloomy picture of the trade. Shearing and handling wool has unfortunately become a nuisance for many farmers and a practice that represents a significant cost, which is appalling given that wool is a natural fibre and is being overlooked in the textile industry, and this is becoming increasingly damaging to the environment.