Factories have been working hard since the middle to end of last week to try to regain some form of control over the lamb trade.

They are working on two fronts – reducing quotes immediately on offer and talking down the trade on the back of what they describe as difficult market conditions.

Base quotes at the start of the week reduced by 10c/kg to 20c/kg to a range of €6.80/kg to €7.00/kg, with factories trying to inflict further cuts of 10c/kg to the base price.

Reports for Thursday point to base quotes ranging on average from €6.70/kg to €6.90/kg, with Ballon Meats well out in front with an all-in quote of €7.20/kg.

Factories are playing hardball with quotes, but have seen supplies fall significantly and, as such, are keen to maintain a significant level of throughput.

Many plants are utilising specialist feeders and regular supplies to provide a good supply base and these producers are receiving a higher price to move lambs.

This is leading to a multitude of prices being paid and a wide differential between prices offered to producers with lower negotiating power and those trading at the top of the market.

Reports indicate that prices offered to producers with lower negotiating power range anywhere from €6.85/kg to €7/kg, depending on the plant purchasing.

Producer groups and regular sellers are being offered a price of €7.10/kg to €7.20/kg, while there are still isolated reports of €7.30/kg to €7.40/kg at the top end of the market.

These higher prices are also reflected in top prices being paid in mart sales.

Last week’s sheep kill fell by over a 1,000 head to 54,691 and reports indicate this will be much lower this week.

This includes ewe and ram throughput of 7,023, meaning it is the second week that throughput has fallen to this level.

Factory prices are steady following a recent improvement of 10c/kg to 20c/kg and range in general from €3.20/kg to €3.40/kg with top prices hitting €3.50/kg in plants most active for ewes.

Plants in Northern Ireland are also trying to bring the trade well back, with base quotes falling by 20p/kg to in the region of £5.50/kg or €6.55/kg.

Regular sellers handling large numbers and trading at the top of the market were still securing prices of £5.70/kg to £5.80/kg on Wednesday to ward off interest from buyers purchasing on behalf of southern plants. The number of sheep exported from NI for direct slaughter in southern plants was recorded last week at 8,469, an increase of over 500 on the previous week.