The total number of sheep slaughtered in Northern Ireland during 2017 to date is up 4% on the corresponding period in 2016, figures from the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) show.

Much of this increase in output, it says, can be attributed to a larger carryover of 2016-born lambs into 2017.

This comes as the changeable weather experienced in Northern Ireland during the summer of 2016 impacted on grass growth and had a negative impact on lamb performance on many farms across the region.

This reduced performance resulted in longer finishing periods and, as a result, a smaller proportion of the total 2016 lamb crop was presented for slaughter in 2016.

Irish sheep throughput up 14%

A similar story has been witnessed south of the border, as official figures show that an extra 54,332 sheep (+14%) have been slaughtered in Irish plants so far this year.

An extra 46,637 hoggets have been slaughtered so far this year, Department of Agriculture figures show, while ewe and ram throughput is up 14% on 2016 levels.

Factories in the Republic of Ireland have been offering farmers 490-495c/kg (excluding QA and producer group bonuses) for hoggets this week.

Ewe prices have remained largely unchanged from previous weeks – at 270-280c/kg.

Imports from Northern Ireland down 10%

Meanwhile, figures from the LMC also show that the total number of sheep imported into the Republic from Northern Ireland is back by 10% on the corresponding period in 2016.

Some 69,826 Northern Irish hoggets have crossed the border for slaughter down south this year - a decrease of over 7,800 head on the same period in 2016.