The sheep trade is starting the week in a steady manner, with base quotes largely unchanged.

Some factories are trying to ease top prices paid for hoggets by 5c/kg but by and large there is little change in the market. Base quotes for hoggets range from €7.00/kg to €7.10/kg and are on par with the corresponding week in 2021.

Most producers selling on an individual basis or through producer groups are trading in a price range of €7.25/kg to €7.40/kg, with deals above this level confined to specialist finishers and those supplying large numbers on a regular basis.

The trade for spring lambs is running significantly ahead of 2021 levels, with base quotes of €7.90/kg currently 40c/kg higher. There is quite a bit of variation in the market, with some plants happier to focus on hoggets and curtailing top prices paid to €8.00/kg to €8.10/kg while others are paying up to €7.20/kg for lambs traded through producer groups and availing of conformation bonuses.

The Irish Country Meats plants in Camolin and Navan have moved to a carcase weight limit of 20.5kg in the last week. Other plants are paying to 20.5kg on occasion, with the general carcase weight limit remaining at 20kg.

Quality issues

The quality of hoggets in the system has been well documented for some time, with upwards of 30% of the kill falling in to a bracket of overweight carcases. Issues with underweight spring lambs are not in the same bracket but are still significant. Some plants comment that the quality of these light carcase lambs is being compounded by poor flesh cover leading to factories pleading for producers to be more careful in selecting lambs.