Tighter hogget numbers to bolster prices this spring
Hogget prices are expected to hold above €5/kg for the early months of the year as numbers continue to tighten.
While firm projections on hogget numbers are not available, farmer representatives are confident that finished stock will remain in short supply for the coming five months.
John Brooks of the ICSA said all the indicators pointed to a sharp fall-off in hogget numbers this spring.
The tighter supplies were due to heavy losses of newborn lambs as a result of the blizzards that hit the country last March, Mr Brooks explained, as well as higher abortion rates last spring, and an overall contraction in the ewe flock.
"Sheep mortality figures were up 30pc in Britain and Northern Ireland last spring. There are no official figures available here but is would be fair to assume that our flocks suffered similar losses," Mr Brooks said.
The increased numbers of dry ewes sold in the marts this year suggested that abortion rates were well up last spring, he added.
Taken together, these facts pointed to a sizeable fall-off in the hogget crop over the first half of the year.
Brendan Joyce of the INHFA agreed, saying: "Anecdotally, the feeling among farmers is that the numbers weren't there from the start of last year and they'll remain tight this spring."