According to statistics released by the Department of Agriculture the lamb kill in Ireland was up six per cent or 115,165 head in 2013.

In total the sheep kill including hoggets, ewes, rams was also up last year. The sheep kill was 2,616,000 in 2013 a rise of 8 per cent on 2012 figures.

Of note is the final result for old ewes and rams which came in 22 per cent ahead of 2012 figures at 374,645 head.

Across the border in Northern Ireland the sheep kill was up as well. Latest Bord Bia figures show that 427,957 sheep have been killed in the north in 2013 a 3.9 per cent rise.

The rise in the sheep kill was also seen by our neighbours across the water in Great Britain. Latest figures from Bord Bia estimate that the kill in England, Scotland and Wales was up 4.5 per cent in 2013 on the previous year to 11,661,658.

Looking ahead to this year when speaking recently at the Teagasc Outlook 2014 conference Kevin Hanrahan, principal research officer at Rural Economy Research Centre struck an optimistic note for the Irish sheep sectors outlook for 2014.

He said: “Tightening global supplies of mutton and lamb are forecast due to the impact of last year’s drought in New Zealand and the flock rebuilding process ongoing in Australia. Both countries are also reorienting there lamb export strategy towards east Asian markets.”

With reduced imports and still contracting EU supplies of lamb prices are forecast to increase by 3 percent in 2014. Hanrahan noted: “While demand is still relatively week. We see that the supply side contraction is going to push prices higher.”

He also commented: “France has been our most important market for lamb and the French economy has been quite weak. However, newer markets are giving a higher return especially in northern Europe. Were we are receiving more value per tonne of lamb exported in these regions particularly Sweden.”