Strong supplies of lambs have started to come forward for slaughter in the last few weeks with 10,325 lambs killed in Northern Irish plants last week.

According to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC), this brings throughput of lambs/hoggets in the NI plants for the year to date to 148,628 head. In the corresponding period last year, 119,720 lambs/hoggets were killed accounting for a 24% increase in throughput year on year.

It says throughput in the NI plants accounted for 73% of total lamb production in NI last week with 3,736 lambs exported to Republic last week making up the balance. The weakening of the euro against sterling has been a key driver behind this trend.

The LMC notes that to coincide with the increase in supplies there has been firm demand for lambs from the processors, with quotes from the plants now just below the quotes in the corresponding week last year.

It also says that lambs being presented for slaughter have generally been of very good quality with 97.6% of price reported lambs slaughtered last week achieving the desired U and R grades.

The current requirement for fat cover on lamb carcasses is two or three in the NI plants with penalties in place for over fat or under finished carcasses. Quoted penalties for carcasses awarded a 4L for fat cover are 5-10p/kg, penalties for carcasses awarded a 4H for fat cover are 20p/kg while carcasses awarded a 5 for fat cover attract a penalty of 30p/kg.

With penalties in place for lambs that don’t meet the desired specification in terms of grade and fat cover, and the processers only paying up to 21kg carcass weights the LMC is encouraging producers to draft lambs close to finishing regularly to ensure they are presenting suitable lambs for slaughter and maximising potential returns to their sheep enterprise