The sheep trade remains solid, despite a slight easing in some cases in average prices paid.

Factory agents have been trying hard over the last week to reduce prices, but have continually met opposition and, in many cases, have been forced to concede some ground to secure supplies, with numbers still relatively tight.

A high percentage of lambs have traded in recent days in a price bracket of €7.80/kg to €8/kg, with top prices rising 5c/kg to 10c/kg higher in deals involving large numbers or where conformation bonuses or allowances on transport are take into account.

Plants are trying hard as the week progresses to curtail top prices to €8/kg. Base quotes for Thursday have reduced on average to €7.55/kg to €7.70/kg, excluding quality assurance (QA) bonuses.

The relative tightness in supplies is reflected in last week’s throughput reducing by 4,580 head to 42,898.

Spring lamb throughput continues to creep upwards and accounted for 29,633. Hogget throughput of 6,182 head is 4,442 lower than the corresponding week in 2020 and reflects the tighter supplies all spring.

Base hogget quotes have dropped under €7/kg and average €6.85/kg to €6.90/kg. General prices range from €7.10/kg to €7.30/kg, with top prices reported at €7.50/kg. There appears to be a greater focus on hoggets deemed out of spec.

It is strongly advised that producers check potential penalties for sheep falling into this category, with some plants threatening to cut heavy-carcase ram hoggets back to standard ram prices and hoggets deemed overweight back to €5/kg.

An increased appetite for ewes is indicated in last week’s kill being recorded at 7,081 head. Ewe quotes range from €3.20/kg to €3.40/kg, but there are more sellers handling big numbers securing top prices of €3.40/kg to €3.50/kg, with factories keen to compete with the mart trade.

There is significant variation on carcase weight limits, with a number of plants continuing to offer a 15c/kg to 20c/kg higher price for ewes less than 35kg to 36kg carcase weight.

Upper carcase weight limits also vary from 40kg to 46kg and this should be explored where you have heavy ewes on hand, with prices possibly stronger in the mart.

Northern factories have reduced lamb base quotes by 20p/kg for Thursday to £6.20/kg or €7.17/kg at 86p:€1.

Producers are reluctant to deal at this level and a significant number of sheep are moving at prices of £6.30/kg to £6.40/kg (€7.29/kg to €7.40/kg) or higher where competing with southern buyers.