Factories are working hard to keep prices in check and resist upward movement.

Base quotes remain unchanged and range from €6.50/kg to €6.70/kg, with lambs at entry level to the market trading from upwards of €6.70/kg to €6.80/kg.

Groups, regular sellers and feeders handling large numbers are in cases negotiating 5c/kg to 10c/kg higher prices leaving the general run of prices at the top end of the market ranging from €6.90/kg to €7/kg.

Factories are reluctant to pass the €7/kg mark, but have had to give way in cases and pay €7.05/kg to €7.10/kg to get deals over the line.

The higher prices have also been based on lighter carcases ranging from 20kg to 22kg, with procurement agents still bemoaning a high percentage of carcases deemed overweight in the kill profile.

Last week’s kill was recorded at 50,693 head, including 42,650 lambs and 8,034 ewes and rams.

This is over 1,000 head higher than the previous week and 7,034 head above the corresponding week in 2021, where tight supplies were a feature of the trade.

New IFA sheep chair Kevin Comiskey is advising farmers to sell hard while moving sheep as they come fit, with factory prices strengthening over the last week.

He said: “Lambs and hoggets have performed well over the past number of weeks and as supplies move through the system earlier, it is expected numbers will tighten further in the coming weeks.”

The trade in Northern Ireland and Britain has also moved upwards.

Base quotes in Northern Irish plants have increased by 15p/kg to £5.55/kg or the equivalent of €6.65/kg at an exchange rate of 83.5p to the euro.

Top prices reported are in the region of £5.70/kg (€6.83/kg).

Last week’s sheep kill of 8,058 was just shy of 200 head higher than the previous week.

The British trade has also regained some of the ground lost in recent weeks.

The latest AHDB price report shows average deadweight prices increasing by 15p/kg to average £6.01/kg (€7.20/kg), with prices this week reported as firming on average by another 5p/kg.

Ewe trade

The ewe trade is solid, with factories happy to increase ewe throughput and actively sourcing higher numbers.

There is a good demand reported for lighter carcase ewes at a fat score of 3.

Base quotes are in the region of €3.20/kg, but those handling significant numbers and groups are pushing securing returns of €3.40/kg to €3.50/kg.

Farmers should weigh up the type of ewes on hand with plants operating an upper payment limit of 40kg to 45kg.