The sheep trade continues to defy the seasonal price trend for the time of year.

Prices increased by 5c/kg to 10c/kg towards the end of last week and over the weekend and have settled at a strong price point as the week has progressed.

Base quotes are unchanged at a range of €6.00/kg to €6.20/kg, but there are no sheep moving at the lower quote.

Kildare Chilling continues to set the pace on price and its base quotes of €6.20/kg plus 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) bonus is reflective of what many other plants are also paying for QA lamb to individual sellers, despite the lower quotes.

Individual sellers with lower negotiating power are trading from €6.15/kg to €6.30/kg, although there are reports of lower being offered at the bottom end of the market, with regular sellers pushing returns to €6.35/kg to €6.40/kg.

Many producer groups are receiving similar returns for R grading lambs, with top prices for U grading lambs rising in cases to €6.50/kg.

Firm demand is underpinning high weekly throughput levels, with last week’s kill recorded at 60,661 head, over 1,000 higher than the previous week and broadly in line with 2020 weekly levels.

Northern plants have increased base quotes by 5p/kg to 10p/kg on last week’s levels to £4.95/kg. This is the equivalent of €5.76 at Wednesday afternoon’s slightly weaker sterling exchange rate of 86p:€1 to the euro.

Top prices are rising 5p/kg to 10p/kg higher, with regular sellers and those providing large numbers from mart sales negotiating strongly.

British lamb prices are holding steady, with the latest AHDB price report recording the average lamb price at £5.30/kg (€6.17/kg), while the liveweight standard quality quotation price is steady over recent days at £2.40/kg (€3/kg).

Ewe trade

The ewe trade has cooled slightly in some areas, with quotes steady to 10c/kg easier and at a range of €3.20/kg to €3.40/kg.

Prices range from €3.30/kg to €3.50/kg in the main, with top prices for larger batches in cases rising 5c/kg higher.

The slight easing is stemming from more ewes in the market in the last two weeks and this is reflected in throughput exceeding the 10,000 head mark. Ewe throughput of 215,709 is running 11,527 below 2020 levels.

Sellers should weigh up the best outlet, with the mart trade for heavy fleshed ewes remaining possibly a better option for heavy carcase ewes that will kill above factory weight limits, which differ from 40kg to 46kg carcase weight.