Sheep farmers have finished and marketed lambs much quicker than usual this year, following exceptional weather and improved prices.

According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, almost 20% more new season lambs were sold through auction markets in the first six months of the year, compared with 2010. Old season lamb sales also increased, boosting total prime lamb sales by 4%.

“Prices improved considerably, and at 199.8p/kg the SQQ for old season lambs was 11p/kg higher, year-on-year. At 227.3p/kg the new season SQQ was 32p/kg higher.”

The sharp increase in new season sales meant lambs forward were significantly lighter than usual, with a 25% drop in heavyweight throughputs. UK heavyweight lamb prices peaked at €634/100kg in the week to 22 May before dropping back to €488 in the week to 26 June – 10% higher than last year.

“Supply shortages have continued to influence the EU lamb market,” said the report. Imports had fallen sharply due to lower production in New Zealand, and EU production was forecast to drop by 2% in 2011.

“That will continue to support lamb prices during the remainder of the year.”

market report