Lamb will be at a premium this Easter

Spring Lamb lying in field in evening sun
Spring Lamb lying in field in evening sun
Declan Fennell
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Most families sitting down to the traditional leg of lamb for Easter dinner will be tucking into hogget rather than spring lamb.

The early arrival of Easter, combined with weather difficulties, has meant extra challenges for early lamb producers.

Bord Bia's Declan Fennell says that recent trends have seen sheep producers move towards later lambing. Those targeting early lamb for Easter were now a more "niche" sector and increased costs had also hit spring lamb production.

There were 551,000 sheep were processed in the first 11 weeks of the year, up from 532,000 in the same period last year and 465,000 in 2016.

Mr Fennell said the transition from the old season to the new lamb will occur towards the end of May and early June.

"That is being pushed out further into June and July," said Mr Fennell.

However, he said the market was performing well. "There is a tightness of New Zealand lamb into Europe, largely driven by drought there before Christmas.

"They are also seeing strong demand from China and other markets such as the US," he said, with lamb from down under so costly the UK retailers are looking for lamb from other sources.

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IFA sheep chair Sean Dennehy said the lamb trade remains solid with factories paying €6.20/kg. He said the butchers and marts are actively looking for scarce supplies of spring lamb.

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