The sheep trade is adjusting to a more normal level of activity following peak processing activity over the last two weeks.

Last week’s sheep kill shows the strength in demand, with throughput increasing by 19,510 head to reach 77,931.

A number of plants were active on Saturday, while there were big kills again on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

The positive news for producers is that demand was reported as excellent, with no carryover of sheep.

There will inevitably be an adjustment phase after such intense market demand, but it is clear now that this will not be as significant as some may have feared, with many producers drafting lambs at lower weights and now faced with a lag phase before more lambs are fit.

Quotes have reduced by 10c/kg to 30c/kg on last week’s levels, with base quotes varying greatly from €6.00/kg to €6.30/kg.

While there are producers being offered a price of €6.20/kg to €6.30/kg, Kildare Chilling’s base of €6.30/kg is setting a higher benchmark, with regular sellers and those trading through groups securing returns of €6.35/kg to €6.40/kg and slightly higher in cases.

Demand for ewes is strong, with tight supplies and a strong live trade meaning no real backlog developed from factories focusing on lambs in the run in to Eid al-Adha.

Quotes remain at €3.30/kg, but producers with numbers are securing €3.50/kg and up to €3.60/kg is being paid for large numbers of ewes.

The greatest reduction in price has been in Northern Ireland plants. Base quotes have fallen by 40p/kg (47c/kg), with plants quoting a price of £4.70/kg (€5.53/kg) for Thursday. Producers are facing challenges in negotiating above £4.80/kg (€5.65/kg).

Last week’s kill was recorded at 8,199 head which was a reduction of 2,566 on the week.

This was due to some plants not processing for one to two days due to bank holidays. This has created a slight backlog, allowing factories to obtain the upper hand in negotiations.

The situation is in direct contrast to Britain where the standard quality quotation (SQQ) liveweight price for new-season lamb strengthened by 2p/kg to average around £2.55/kg (€3/kg).

The latest AHDB deadweight price for last week also increased by 2p/kg to average £5.48/kg (€6.48/kg), with reports indicating tight supplies have lifted average deadweight prices by 5p/kg this week.

Northern producers are not happy with NI plants and the differential which has opened up in price, while the strengthening in British prices should hopefully help competitiveness in key export markets.