There is a much better tone to the sheep trade since the start of the week, with factories gearing up for their busiest week of processing in advance of the Eid al-Adha festival and increasing prices in a bid to attract higher numbers forward.

The greatest increase in price occurred on Wednesday, with quotes increasing by 10c/kg to 20c/kg.

As can be seen on the quotes table, the two Irish Country Meats plants are quoting a base of €6.20/kg plus 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) bonus for Thursday, while Kildare Chilling is quoting a base of €6.30/kg plus its 10c/kg QA bonus.

This leaves lambs trading from producers with no real negotiating power from €6.30/kg to €6.40/kg, while producers with greater negotiating power are securing returns of €6.50/kg and those trading through groups or at the top end of the market are now pushing returns to €6.55/kg to €6.60/kg.

Factories are keen to maximise throughput and some are worried that the festival is falling at a bad time with weaning having taken place in earlier lambing mid-season flocks and lambs not coming fit for slaughter in flocks lambing later. The trade in recent years has underpinned throughput, ranging from a high of 70,000 to 80,000 head.

This will represent a large increase from last week’s throughput of 57,965 head. As such, factories are keen to try to start laying down supplies this week and are not turning any numbers away.

The main purchasing will take place next week, with some plants also planning to process on Saturday 10 July and Saturday 17 July.

Demand for ewes is strong at present, with quotes remaining at €3.30/kg to €3.40/kg, while producers with significant numbers on hand and stronger negotiating power are securing €3.50/kg to €3.60/kg and possibly higher in cases.

Factories typically reduce their ewe kill for the week leading up to Eid al-Adha to concentrate on lambs, but this will depend on lamb supplies.

It is advisable to check ewe kill days and also carcase weight limits, with these varying in the main from 40kg to 46kg. Some plants are offering a premium of 20c/kg for lighter carcase ewes.

Buyers purchasing lambs in Northern Ireland (NI) on behalf of southern plants are said to be much more active this week and increasing competition majorly.

NI plants have responded by increasing base quotes by 30p/kg to £5.10/kg, while regular sellers are securing 10p/kg to 15p/kg higher, with plants keen to maintain throughput and ward off interest from buyers looking to bring sheep south.