This week’s sheep kill looks certain to be by far the highest level of throughput in the year to date.

Towards the end of last week and even over the weekend, it looked like numbers were going to be particularly tight and that factories might struggle to get their hands on their required numbers.

However, producers have responded to the higher prices on offer, with some drafting lambs at lighter than normal weights, while others delayed moving lambs until this week in anticipation of a firmer trade.

This has resulted in factories getting into sufficient numbers to utilise greater processing capacity, with some plants building a buffer in supplies for a couple of days in advance.

Solid demand

Demand remains solid and this is keeping a firm floor under base quotes and deals negotiated. However, there is some variation in the market.

As can be seen in the table, base quotes range from €6.30/kg to €6.40/kg, with a high percentage of lambs moving this week in the region of €6.50/kg.

There are a couple of plants trying to purchase lambs below this level and producers should study their options and weigh up their best outlet.

Higher end

At the higher end of the market, regular sellers and those trading through producer groups are securing 5c/kg to 10c/kg higher returns or allowances on transport, with prices of €6.65/kg to €6.70/kg also reported on occasion.

Some producer group co-ordinators report that many of their members drafted hard this week to take advantage of the lift in the trade and, as such, are likely to be tight on numbers in the coming weeks.

Factories are advising farmers to select lambs carefully

This could bolster demand and help alleviate any price pressure if there is a lull.

Factories are advising farmers to select lambs carefully, with an increase in lambs falling below the 16kg to 17kg carcase weight cut-off point and facing price deductions.

IFA sheep chair Sean Dennehy said: “It is important to maximise returns and keep control of the supplies by carefully selecting lambs.

“Deals to €6.70/kg and weights of 21.5kg are available despite lower quotes and farmers should sell hard.”

Northern Ireland trade

The trade in Northern Ireland plants is solid, with quotes unchanged at a base of £5.10/kg or €5.99/kg at 85.1p to the euro.

Regular sellers and groups are securing returns of £5.20/kg to £5.25/kg, while £5.30/kg (€6.22/kg) has been paid at the top end of the market.

Meanwhile, the appetite of plants for ewes is lower this week, as they focus on maximising lamb throughput.

Quotes are unchanged at €3.30/kg to €3.40/kg, with top prices at €3.60/kg to €3.70/kg.