Factories are keen to maximise throughput at present, with demand buoyed by the Ramadan festival which started on 22 March.

Their appetite is reflected in last week’s sheep kill being recorded at 53,185 head despite a day’s less processing.

The kill is some 17,100 head higher than the corresponding week in 2022 but there was an extra day’s less processing in 2022 due to an additional public holiday.

The strong appetite for sheepmeat is also evident in plants wanting to quickly get back on track this week and raising base hogget quotes by 20c/kg at the start of the week.

Quotes have remained steady since and Kildare Chilling continues to set the pace with its 20c/kg increase leaving the plant top in terms of quotes offered at a base of €6.50/kg plus its 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment.

The two Irish Country Meats plants in Camolin and Navan also increased their base quote by 20c/kg to €6.35/kg plus the plants’ higher 20c/kg QA payment.

The other main processing plants are also reported as increasing their base quote by 20c/kg this week.

The increase in quotes have now all filtered through the system, with some plants slower to act than others. Midweek prices show quality-assured hoggets traded by individual sellers with lower negotiating power ranging from €6.55/kg to €6.65/kg.

Producers with numbers on hand or trading through groups have now pushed returns to €6.70-6.75/kg, with top prices rising in cases to €6.80/kg and slightly higher.

There are also reports of specialist finishers and agents handling large numbers securing higher but indications are that plants are reluctant to sanction returns of €7/kg.

This reluctance is also reflected in mart prices holding relatively steady this week.

The latest strengthening in the trade is also being underpinned by a significant improvement in British lamb prices providing more scope to compete and leverage higher returns in key export markets.

The trade in Northern Ireland has also moved upwards by 10p/kg to a base of £5.60/kg or the equivalent of €6.36/kg. Regular sellers are securing 5p/kg to 15p/kg higher, depending on negotiating power. Numbers in the market have tightened significantly and this is evident in last week’s kill reducing by over 1,500 head to 8,406. The number of sheep exported south for direct slaughter reduced by 606 head to 5,567.

Ewe trade

A significant differential remains in the ewe trade. Quotes range from €3.10/kg to €3.30/kg, with prices paid ranging in the main from €3.20/kg to €3.50/kg and higher paid in cases in wholesale-orientated factories and smaller abattoirs. As always it is important to consider if the factory or mart is the most lucrative outlet.