In a recent sheep market update the Livestock and Meat Commission in Northern Ireland noted a marked reduction in the number of lambs heading south for direct slaughter in ROI plants.

It said exports to ROI for direct slaughter during March 2014 totalled 31,027 head compared to 41,117 head the previous March. This decline by 10,090 head year on year accounts for a 25 per cent decline in export levels year on year

During March 2014 exports to ROI accounted for 60.5 per cent of total sheep output from NI with the remainder slaughtered locally. This is markedly lower than the 74.2 per cent of NI produced sheep exported for slaughter in ROI plants in March 2013.

The LMC noted that throughput of hoggets/lambs in the NI plants during March 2014 totalled 20,175 head, an increase of almost 6,000 head on the previous March when 14,189 head were slaughtered.

An LMC spokesman commented that this increase was driven by NI plants competing for a larger share of locally produced sheep which has resulted in a reduction in lambs going south.

The LMC cited the combination of the good summer of 2013 and a reduction in the lamb crop when compared to the previous year as the drivers behind a markedly lower carryover of hoggets into 2014 compared to the previous year.

The LMC representative added the tighter availability of hoggets for slaughter combined with a firm demand for lamb has had a positive influence on the deadweight sheep markets in NI during March 2014.

According to the LMC the average deadweight hogget price in NI during March 2014 was 440.5p/kg, 14p/kg higher than March 2013, when the average hogget price was 426.3p/kg. Increases were also recorded in GB where average prices increased by 21p/kg on year earlier levels to 455.5p/kg in March 2014. Meanwhile in ROI average deadweight prices were down marginally in sterling terms year on year to 421.8p/kg during March 2014. It was, however, up by 16c/kg in euro terms.