Extra hoggets expected as poor summer hits 2016 lamb throughput – Bord Bia

A carryover of 2016 born lambs is expected this year as a poor summer hit lamb slaughterings in 2016, according to Bord Bia’s Declan Fennell.

The Bord Bia Sheepmeat Sector Manager said spring lamb slaughterings were back last year due to a difficult summer, which seen lamb throughput fall by 43,000 head on the year before.

“Grass growth was poor, sunshine wasn’t great and lambs were always running late,” he told crowds at the recent Bord Bia Meat Market Seminar.

However, he said lamb throughput did creep up in the latter stages of 2016, as slaughterings had previously been down by 80,000 head or 7% year-on-year.

There was also a significant increase in the overall kill, he said, with the total for the year reaching the 2.67 million head mark.

This, he said, was mainly due to an increase in cull ewe and ram slaughterings which increased by 26% on year before levels.

That would normally set an alarm bell ringing as people are exiting the industry, but they are not. If you recall 2014 and 2015, we saw a higher retention of ewe lambs.

“So really what has happened in 2016 is the older breeding ewes have been culled and younger breeding ewe lambs have been graduating to the flock. We have a reinvigorated breeding flock.”

Fennell also discussed the number of Northern Irish lambs crossing the border for direct slaughter in Republic of Ireland plants.

Last year around 13% of the national kill came from the North. However a favourable exchange rate has seen the number of sheep crossing the border increase by over 115,000 head or 6%.

Looking at Irish sheep prices, Fennell said that prices only declined by 1% in 2016 year-on-year. This is despite the Sterling/euro exchange rate, which has moved considerably over in recent times.

Currency plays an important role in terms of trading dynamics, he said, and particularly the value of Sterling compared to the euro, which stood at 74p per euro last year.

“For obvious reasons, that we know about, it rallied on from late June onwards to almost 91p per euro and that had a significant effect on increasing the competitiveness of UK sheepmeat exports

“The New Zealand Dollar also strengthened over that same period and the big challenge there was that UK lamb imports suffered in UK retail multiples.”

As a result, Fennell said there was less New Zealand lamb available on UK retail shelves towards the end of 2016.