The level of sheep throughput in factories looks to be finishing the year in a strong manner.

Last week’s sheep kill was recorded at 59,432 head, which represents an increase of 7,269 on the previous week.

Reports indicate that this week’s throughput is likely to be recorded at a similar level.

The increase in numbers has been influenced by factory prices in recent weeks.

The sheep kill from three weeks ago fell by over 8,000 head over a two-week period on the back of factories pulling prices.

Throughput has gradually recovered since then, in line with an increase in price, and was particularly boosted last week by keen demand to increase numbers to fill Christmas orders.

Factories are still keen to maintain throughput at a high level.

However, the increase in numbers coming on stream and a slower week’s processing coming down the tracks appears to have taken the edge off purchasing intensity, with some plants trying to reduce prices on offer.

The official quotes table is even scarcer on figures than usual. Reports indicate that base quotes have not changed significantly and are in the region of €7.00/kg to €7.10/kg.

However, factories are trying to curtail prices paid at the higher end of the market, with some trying to reduce prices by 10c/kg to 15c/kg.

A high percentage of quality assured lambs are trading in the region of €7.20/kg to €7.30/kg, with prices offered to some producer groups at the higher end of this price due to an absence of official quotes on which to calculate prices on.

Regular sellers and specialist finishers handling large numbers and group lambs receiving conformation bonuses are securing returns rising to €7.35/kg to €7.40/kg at the top end of the market, with prices above this level harder to negotiate as the week has progressed.

Factories are also keen to keep sellers supplying large numbers on side, as they are relying on them to supply sheep over the Christmas period.

Meanwhile, the ewe trade is steady, with quotes ranging from €3.20/kg to €3.40/kg and top prices ranging from €3.40/kg to €3.55/kg.

NI trade

Quotes in plants in Northern Ireland are unchanged at £5.70/kg to £5.75/kg or the equivalent of €6.69/kg to €6.75/kg at 85.2p to the euro. Top prices remain 10p/kg to 15p/kg higher.

The number of sheep travelling south for direct slaughter increased by 362 head to 8,194.

The latest AHDB price report shows British lamb prices averaging £6.32/kg (€7.42/kg) for the week ending 11 December, while liveweight prices have eased by 4/kg to 11p/kg at the start of the week.