In recent weeks the number of lambs coming forward for slaughter in Northern Ireland plants has tightened according to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC).

It says reports of fewer slaughter ready lambs on the ground and increased competition from southern buyers has increased competition for lambs in North Ireland. The LMC says with reports of steady demand for lamb from the retail and export markets there has been an improvement in both the deadweight and liveweight trades.

According to the LMC in recent weeks the number of Northern Ireland origin sheep exported to the south for direct slaughter has increased with 8,821 sheep making the journey south last week.

However it says the level of export remains behind the 10,143 exported in the corresponding week last year

The LMC outlines that improved production conditions on NI farms during 2014 when compared to earlier years helped to boost lamb performance and brought them ready for slaughter earlier than previous years.

It says this improved performance combined with lower levels of export to the south for direct slaughter resulted in high levels of throughput in the Northern Ireland plants during summer 2014.

Official figures show lamb throughput in the Northern Ireland plants in recent weeks has been below the level of throughput recorded in the corresponding weeks in 2012 and 2013.

The lamb kill in NI last week totalled 8,792 head and is the third consecutive week in which the lamb kill has recorded a decline. In the corresponding week in 2013 the lamb kill was 10,746 head. According to the LMC this decline by 1,954 head represents an 18% reduction year on year.