The number of spring lambs slaughtered up to now has been negligible, with the focus very much remaining on hogget throughput. However, factories are looking to get their hands on a quantity of spring lambs to fill orders for the Easter trade.

The increase in appetite is reflected in a significant increase in spring lamb quotes, with base quotes for Thursday increasing by 30c/kg to 50c/kg and ranging from €7.40/kg to €7.50/kg, excluding the 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) bonus.

With QA bonuses added in, along with producer and group bonuses or allowances on transport, top prices reported are in the region of €7.60/kg to €7.80/kg.

Some producers are looking for a higher premium over hogget prices and have set their stall at in excess of €8/kg.

Prices are running 90c/kg on average above the corresponding week in 2020, or €17 to €18 on a 19kg to 20kg carcase, although the trade had also yet to take off in 2020, with Easter Sunday falling a week later than in 2021.

The hogget trade also continues to gain upward momentum, with quotes rising 10c/kg, leaving base prices offered ranging from €7.00/kg to €7.30/kg, including the 10c/kg QA bonus.

There is also variation in the top prices on offer, with these reported ranging from €7.35/kg to €7.50/kg.

Some producers trading at the lower end of this range are securing the equivalent of €7.50/kg when transport allowances are taken into account, while others trading with wholesale buyers are pushing for an extra 0.5kg to 1kg in the carcase weight limit.

Last week’s kill of 45,458 head reduced by 2,759, despite the increase in prices, and shows why prices have continued to increase, with factories keen to maximise throughput, with this week the main week for filling Easter orders.

The kill is 3,765 head lower than the corresponding week in 2020. The ewe and ram kill of 4,697 head remains lower than the norm for the time of year, with quotes for Thursday increasing 10c/kg to 20c/kg on the back of tight supplies.

Kildare Chilling is well out in front, with its base of €3.10/kg plus 10c/kg QA top-up.

Last week’s throughput in Northern Ireland plants also reduced, falling by 297 head to 8,157. Hogget prices have also increased by 10p/kg to 15p/kg.

Prices at the lower end of the market range from £6.30/kg to £6.40/kg or €7.36/kg to €7.48 at 85.6p to the euro, while top prices are hitting £6.50/kg to £6.60/kg (€7.60/kg to €7.70/kg), with the latter confined to 22kg carcase weight.

The number of sheep coming south for direct slaughter was unchanged at 4,609 head.

The latest AHDB price report shows the average British standard quality quotation (SQQ) deadweight price for old-season lamb (hoggets) increasing last week by 18.8p/kg to reach £6.34/kg, with this week’s price at £6.40/kg to £6.60/kg.