There has been significant movement in the sheep trade over the last week.

Kildare Chilling increased its quote by 10c/kg last Thursday and has done similar this week.

Its base quote now stands at €6.90/kg plus its 10c/kg quality assurance bonus, meaning producers with quality assured sheep are hitting the €7/kg mark without any negotiations.

The two Irish Country Meats plants in Camolin and Navan have increased their base quotes by 25c/kg on last week’s level and are now quoting bases of €6.75/kg plus 10c/kg quality assurance.

While plants in the west are not quoting, reports indicate a similar base quote in the region of €6.75/kg to €6.80/kg is on offer.

The fact that Kildare’s quote for quality assured hoggets is €7/kg is setting the benchmark for prices, with many producers now setting this price as the minimum they require to sell quality assured sheep.

Regular sellers and producer groups are pushing returns to €7.10/kg, while at the top end of the market, prices of €7.15/kg and higher have been reported, with some producers also securing allowances on transport costs where high numbers are involved.

The weight of hoggets is also having an influence on prices paid, with factory agents keen for hoggets killing within a carcase weight range of 20kg to 23kg, while some plants are also keen for light lamb carcases.

Sheep throughput is tightening and while last week’s kill of 52,531 head fell only marginally by 610, this was helped by factories increasing prices paid and leaning more on specialist finishers to maintain similar levels of throughput.

Further price increases over the last week show factories are keen to maintain such levels of throughput, which translates into steady demand.

Reports indicate that some plants have also started to build supplies in anticipation of keen demand for Ramadan (1 April to 30 April) and Easter (17 April) and an expectation that by this stage numbers may be significantly tighter.

Ewe throughput remains low, with last week’s kill including just 4,495 ewes and rams.

Quotes are in the region of €3.50/kg, with individual sellers securing returns rising to €3.60/kg to €3.70/kg and regular sellers trading at the top end of the market receiving returns of €3.70/kg to €3.90/kg.

The trade in Northern Ireland has also improved, although this is not reflected in base quotes of £5.50 or the equivalent of €6.54/kg.

Regular sellers are being offered 10p/kg to 15p/kg above prices paid to individual sellers to ward off strong interest from southern buyers. The number of sheep exported for direct slaughter in southern plants last week increased by over 5,000 head to 7,005.