A breakdown of last week’s sheep kill shows lamb throughput overtaking hoggets.

The lamb kill comprised 51.8% of the overall kill, up from 40% in the previous week, while the hogget kill reduced from 50% of throughput to 37% last week.

The ratio is expected to drop further this week, but hoggets are still likely to contribute significantly at about 25% of throughput.

Agents report that the quality of hoggets has become very variable, with prices being adjusted accordingly.

This week’s quotes range from €6.80/kg to €7.00/kg, with prices paid ranging anywhere from €7.00/kg to a top of €7.30/kg to €7.40/kg for optimally covered hoggets delivered at desired carcase weights.

Price penalties range from €2/kg for hoggets lacking flesh to the equivalent ewe price for heavy hoggets which have set teeth. It is worth exploring potential cuts if in doubt.

Lamb quotes have eased by 10c/kg, with the two Irish Country Meats Plants quoting a base of €7.50/kg plus their 20c/kg quality assurance payment.

The plants have also moved from 20.5kg to 21kg carcase weight since Monday and this is placing pressure on other plants to follow suit.

Kildare Chilling is not quoting in the price table for lambs, but is paying farmers a base of €7.70/kg plus their 10c/kg QA payment.

Quotes in other plants range anywhere from a low of €7.45/kg to €7.60/kg.

Groups and producers handling large numbers are securing returns ranging from €7.80/kg to €7.90/kg, with higher prices harder to secure and hitting €8/kg in cases.

The ewe trade is solid, with quotes ranging from €3.30/kg to €3.60/kg.

Prices paid range anywhere from €3.40/kg to €3.70/kg, with an active trade in marts offering an alternative for those struggling to negotiate on price.

Northern trade

Plants in Northern Ireland are also trying to enforce some downward pressure on price, but are struggling to do so, with competition from agents buying on behalf of southern plants helping to keep a floor under the trade.

The number of sheep exported south for direct slaughter increased by 1,400 head to just over 4,000 sheep last week.

Lamb quotes are unchanged to 5p/kg lower at a base of £6.50/kg (€7.55/kg at 86.8p to the euro).

Producers with stronger negotiating power are securing 10p/kg higher, with agents working at a higher price which is reflected in mart prices.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) reports the average British lamb price fell by 10p/kg last week to just over £7.30/kg (€8.48/kg).

The hogget prices fell 21.6p to average £6.47/kg (€7.52). Price pressure remains this week, but there is a significant differential present between prices in Northern Ireland and Britain.