The sheep trade has stabilised following a reduction in factory quotes by 10c/kg to 20c/kg since the end of last week.

While the quotes table remains sparse of figures, with only Kildare Chilling and Ballon Meats quoting a price for Thursday’s kill, reports indicate the other plants are working off a base quote of €7/kg to €7.10/kg.

This leaves significant numbers of quality assured (QA) lambs marketed by producers trading individually and with little negotiating power selling from €7.10/kg to €7.20/kg.

Producers handling higher numbers and trading on a regular basis are securing returns of €7.20/kg to €7.30/kg, while top prices including conformation bonuses and allowances on transport are in cases rising to €7.35/kg to €7.40/kg.

The higher prices are in many cases confined to lambs at optimum carcase weight and fat cover.

Factory agents report that, in general, the quality of lambs on offer has improved, but isolated issues remain with underweight and under-fleshed lambs.

These lambs are being penalised in cases where they are falling well outside of spec, with cuts as high as 50c/kg to €1/kg reported on rare occasions.

Last week’s throughput was recorded at 49,325 head, which represents a decrease of 3,404 on the previous week.

The reduction was primarily driven by fewer hoggets, with throughput falling by 1,650 head to just 1,472.

Lamb throughput reduced by 983 head to 42,566, with ewe and ram throughput falling by a similar figure of 769 head to 5,287.

Reports predict that this week’s kill will be similar in number.

Hogget prices have fallen to in the region of €6/kg. However, there is a wide variation, with specialist producers securing higher, while aged hoggets which have set teeth and presented at excessive weights are being penalised in price by anywhere from €1/kg to €2/kg.

Producers in any doubt should investigate potential cuts before moving sheep.

The ewe trade remains firm, with a vibrant mart trade helping to insert high levels of competition into the trade and providing a good option for producers struggling to negotiate higher prices.

Quotes for ewes are unchanged, with the majority ranging from €3.20/kg to €3.30/kg, while top prices are rising on average to €3.50/kg.

Northern Ireland

Base quotes in NI plants have reduced for Thursday by 20p/kg (23c/kg) to £5.70/kg (€6.63/kg). Regular sellers and those trading with groups continue to secure 10p/kg to 20p/kg higher prices.

The number of sheep imported from the North last week increased by 1,325 head to 4,139, while the lamb/hogget kill increased by almost 400 head to 8,926.