Purchasing for the Islamic religious festival of Ramadan retained a solid floor under the sheep trade this week.

The general run of hogget prices traded by individual producers or through producer groups ranges in the main from €7.25/kg to €7.40/kg for hoggets.

Base quotes are unchanged, but some plants are trying to ease prices at the top end of the market by 5c/kg. There are still specialist finishers and hoggets securing conformation bonuses achieving returns of €7.45/kg to €7.50/kg.

Hoggets continue to dominate throughput and this is reflected in last week’s kill where they accounted for 38,657 head of the overall figure of 49,724 sheep.

There are signs of numbers slowly starting to reduce in mart sales, but they still remain above normal for the time of year.

Demand for spring lamb is being tempered by the number of hoggets in the system and also by the fact that these sheep are delivering a higher than normal volume of sheepmeat due to overweight carcases.

The extent to which heavier hoggets are being discounted depends on the number on offer, the extent to which they are overweight and the producer-processor relationship.

Kildare Chilling continues to implement an upper price of €160/head for carcases in excess of 25kg, while other plants are imposing 30c/kg deductions on prices paid.

Prices on offer for lambs are in the region of €8/kg for starting quotes, with lambs traded through groups or availing of bonus payments rising to €8.10/kg to €8.20/kg.

The general weight limit is at 20kg carcase weight, but the two Irish Country Meats plants have increased their carcase weight payment to 20.5kg this week.

A number of plants are reporting the opposite issue with spring lambs as to hoggets, with the number of underweight carcases increasing last week and a significant number falling below 17kg.

At a price of €8/kg, there is a €28 difference in the sale price of a 17kg versus 20.5kg carcase and farmers should draft lambs carefully to ensure they are not leaving any potential returns behind them.

Quotes for ewes in factories are unchanged and average from €3.80/kg to €3.90/kg, with top prices paid to producers with significant numbers on hand at €4/kg.

Agents and dealers handling large numbers are securing higher returns from the market.

NI trade

The trade in Northern Ireland is facing some pressure, with quotes for hoggets back 5p/kg to 10p/kg, as seen in the quotes table.

The number of sheep imported for direct slaughter reduced by over 800 head to 4,170.