The Livestock Meat Commission (LMC), the body similar to Bord Bia in Northern Ireland, report that hogget quotes for next week have increased by 10p/kg to 20p/kg.

The organisation’s weekly bulletin reports that quotes for the week beginning 8 April 2024 have increased to £7/kg to £7.10/kg for R3 grading hoggets weighing up to 22.5kg carcase weight.

This is the equivalent of €8.16 to €8.27/kg at an exchange rate of 85.8p to the euro. Prices at the higher end of the market are running 10p/kg to 20p/kg above base quotes. The upward movement comes as factories struggle to source required numbers and move to increase competitiveness with agents purchasing sheep for export to Ireland and Britain.

Throughput in factories has been under pressure in recent weeks with the kill a fortnight ago falling by over 1,250 head to 7,909 sheep. There was a further reduction last week to 7,654 while this week’s kill is also expected to have fallen further due to a combination of tight supplies and two days less processing.

Intense competition

Reports from mart managers and agents also point to intense competition in the market from agents purchasing sheep for exporting live to factories in Ireland or exporting live to Britain. The number of sheep exported to plants in Ireland for direct slaughter has been running in excess of 8,500 head for the last five weeks.

The number of sheep exported to Britain under the classification of breeding and store sheep has been recorded just shy of 40,000 head for the first quarter of 2024. This is almost double the level recorded in quarter one last year. A differential which has risen to in excess of £1.40/kg in recent weeks has opened up the opportunity for traders to export sheep to Britain, cover transport / associated costs and still leave a margin.

YTD figures

Throughput of sheep in processing plants in Northern Ireland is running at 114,887 up to the end of March. This is broadly in line with the figure of 115,945 head for the corresponding period in 2023. The number of sheep exported for direct slaughter to plants in Ireland is running at 109,264 head compared to 84,761 in 2023. The number of sheep exported to farms in Ireland in quarter one of 2023 was recorded at 18,242 head, over 10,000 head lower than the figure of 29,151 in quarter one, 2023.

The number of sheep exported to Britain for direct slaughter is negligible at just 248 head. But as mentioned above numbers moving to Britain for trading onwards or for breeding are running over 90% above 2023 levels.