Sheep prices have come under further pressure since last week, with factories moving to pull price by another 10c/kg over the weekend. This leaves hogget quotes 10c/kg to 20c/kg below last Thursday’s levels, with quotes for Thursday 28 January ranging from a base of €5.80/kg to €6.00/kg.

The lower quotes are typically being used to set the benchmark for farmers trading through groups or sellers trading on a base-price-plus-bonus mechanism.

Opening prices are typically starting in the region of €5.90/kg to €6/kg for producers handling small numbers of hoggets or sellers not trading on a regular basis and possessing non-quality assured (QA) lamb.

Regular sellers and those handling larger numbers are negotiating prices in the region of €6.25/kg to €6.30/kg, with some deals also completed at this level with transport costs fully or partly covered.

Reports indicate that this week’s kill is likely to reduce on last week’s throughput, which was unchanged at 52,079 head (45,518 hoggets / lambs and 6,561 ewes and rams).

There are reports of some specialist finishers and those handling big numbers reluctant to move at this level, or at a top price of €6.30/kg to €6.35/kg, with a stand-off developing for large batches with factories unwilling to move on price.

Some producers with hoggets approaching 23kg carcase weight are content to keep them moving, with sheep sold at €6.25kg to 23kg carcase weight grossing over €143.

IFA sheep chair Sean Dennehy said factories are using a tactic of trying to talk the trade down and scare producers into selling at lower prices. He advised farmers to continue to assess lambs and draft when fit, but to ensure that you are receiving the best price possible.

There is little merit for producers or the industry in feeding hoggets into excessive weights and giving factories free meat for no return and the advice is to assess carefully.

Ewe and ram throughput remains unchanged in the region of 6,500 head. The ewe trade is steady, with farmers handling small numbers trading in the region of €2.90/kg to €3.05/kg, while prices at the top of the market are reported in a range of €3.10/kg to €3.20/kg.

Northern Ireland plants have reduced base quotes for Thursday by 10p/kg to 20p/kg on last week’s level and are quoting a base of £5.20/kg. At Wednesday afternoon’s exchange rate of 88p to the euro, this equates to €5.91/kg.

Regular sellers continue to secure 10p/kg to 15p/kg above quotes prices with top prices reported in the region of £5.40/kg (€6.14/kg) midweek.

One plant has moved its paid carcase weight limit from the norm of 22kg to 23kg. Reports suggest specialist finishers in the North are also slower to trade at the lower prices, while a drop-off in supplies in some marts is said to be leaving it tighter for agents supplying southern plants to fill loads.