The Department of Agriculture’s weekly kill figures released on Wednesday for week 52 of 2021 shows total-year lamb throughput falling by some 127,578 head and recorded at 2.72m sheep.

The reduction in the kill was driven by lower throughput in the first half of 2021, with hogget throughput falling by 94,486 head to 698,136, or by 12% on 2020 levels.

The ewe and ram kill also fell significantly, with throughput of 352,036 head down 31,013 or 8%. In contrast, lamb throughput was steady at 1.67m head.

The final weekly kill was recorded at 36,297 head over what was three days of processing for most plants.

The appetite from factory agents for lambs is stable, with supply and demand currently well balanced.

Factory base quotes range from €6.90/kg to €7.00/kg, excluding assurance scheme bonuses.

The variance in quotes is giving rise to some variability in prices paid to producers handling lower numbers and possessing lower negotiating power, with prices ranging from €7.00/kg to €7.20/kg.

The greatest run of lambs in this bracket are trading from €7.10/kg to €7.20/kg.

Regular sellers

Regular sellers and producer groups are receiving prices of €7.25/kg to €7.30/kg in the main, with top prices rising to €7.35/kg.

There are some prices hitting in the region of €7.40/kg when conformation bonuses or allowances on transport are accounted for.

Ewe quotes are broadly similar at €3.20/kg, with regular sellers securing returns of €3.35/kg to €3.40/kg, while there have been some higher prices reported in plants most active in the ewe trade.

The mart remains a good alternative option for producers struggling to negotiate directly with factories.

Northern Ireland

The trade in Northern Ireland plants is steady, with base quotes in the region of £5.70/kg, which is the equivalent of €6.81/kg at Wednesday afternoon’s exchange rate of 83.7p to the euro.

Regular sellers and specialist finishers are securing returns of £5.80/kg to £5.85/kg (€6.93/kg to €6.99/kg), with northern factories helped in negotiations with producers by a stronger sterling exchange rate reducing the attractiveness of sending sheep for direct slaughter in southern plants.

The latest AHDB price report shows lamb prices for the week ending 1 January averaging £6.16/kg (€7.36/kg), which is an increase of 8p/kg on the previous week.

The live trade has also started steadily, with the standard quality quotation (SQQ) liveweight price averaging around £2.70/kg (€3.00/kg) on Tuesday.