The seasonal switch-over from hoggets to lambs gained pace over the last week.
Hoggets accounted for 16,563 head or 34% of last week’s kill figure of 48,801, while spring lamb throughput increased by 6,830 head and, at throughput of 25,924, accounted for 53% of the kill.
The focus is now on spring lambs, although factories have also intensified their efforts to get their hands on more hoggets to compensate for spring lamb numbers being slower to build.
This has witnessed reports of specialist finishers and agents handling large numbers pushing top prices for hoggets above the €7.50/kg mark.
However, the general run of prices continues to range from €7.30/kg to €7.50/kg.
The fall-off in hogget throughput has had a greater effect on production than numerical differences would suggest, due to a significant number of overweight carcases being in the kill profile in recent weeks.
While this created processing and marketing challenges, their absence has brought about a reduction in the volume of sheepmeat produced.
With a positive carcase trade, sheep producers should be mindful to the experience of recent years and keep lambs moving at the optimum weights to bolster demand and deliver the best sales opportunities.
Lamb quotes are steady this week, ranging from €7.95/kg to €8.10/kg excluding quality assurance (QA) bonuses.
Regular sellers and those trading through groups are securing 5c/kg to 10c/kg higher, with returns of €8.20/kg to €8.30/kg, while, at the top end of the market, prices of €8.35/kg to €8.40/kg are being reported on occasion.
The ewe trade remains vibrant. Quotes range from €3.80/kg to €4/kg, with farmers selling ewes in big batches in cases securing 10c/kg to 15c/kg above quoted prices, while those handling large numbers are trading in the region of €4.10/kg to €4.25/kg.
Northern plants have finished officially quoting for hoggets, with prices showing hoggets trading anywhere from £5.75/kg to upwards of £5.95/kg.
Sterling exchange rates continue to fluctuate and at 85.2p to the euro, this equates to €6.75/kg to €6.99/kg.
Lamb quotes have rebounded by 10p/kg to £6.45/kg to £6.50/kg (€7.57/kg to €7.63/kg), with sellers with greater negotiating power pushing to £6.60/kg (€7.75).
Last week’s kill was steady at 7,347 head. This hides slight changes with the lamb / hogget kill up by 311 head (6,916), while the ewe and ram kill fell by 368 head to 431.
Sheep exports to Irish plants for direct slaughter fell by 1,085 to 3,582.
The latest price reports from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board show hogget prices for the week ending 21 May averaging £5.99/kg (€7.02/kg), down 6.6p/kg on the week. Lamb prices averaged £6.72/kg (€7.89/kg), down 4.4p/kg on the week, with reports indicating further downward pressure this week.