The buoyant sheep trade continues to be underpinned by strong market demand, boosted by the Ramadan festival and tight supplies.

The extent of the tightness in supplies is reflected in last week’s sheep kill being recorded at 37,957 head, despite prices increasing by 20c/kg to 30c/kg on the previous week.

Prices strengthen over the weekend and have steadied since the start of the week.

Kildare Chilling is well out in front, with its spring lamb quote of a base of €8.10/kg plus 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) bonus being 20c/kg ahead of the other plants.

Prices paid to farmer suppliers are starting in the region of €8.00/kg to €8.10/kg at the lower end of the market and rising to €8.20/kg to €8.30/kg, with regular suppliers and agents handling large numbers securing 10c/kg to 20c/kg above the going rate.

IFA sheep chair Sean Dennehy said: “Factories are paying €8.30/kg to €8.50/kg for spring lambs and are also doing deals on weight to secure supplies.

“Competition between factory agents and wholesalers at mart sales is strong, with cull ewe prices in particular comparable or above the prices offered by factories.”

The hogget trade is solid, with quotes increasing by 10c/kg to 20c/kg on last week’s level and ranging from a base of €7.50/kg to €7.60/kg.

In-spec hoggets are trading from €7.70/kg to €7.90/kg and as high as €8/kg has been secured by suppliers handling large numbers.

Factories report hogget quality becoming more variable.

A number of plants have raised concerns regarding ewe hoggets in particular killing into excessive carcase weights or at fat score 2 and even 1 in the worst cases.

They point out these sheep will face significant price cuts and advise farmers to handle sheep and where any doubt exists about suitability to talk with their procurement contact.

NI prices

Quotes in Northern Ireland plants have increased by 20p/kg to 40p/kg on last week’s level.

Hoggets are quoted at a base of £6.40/kg to £6.50/kg or the equivalent of €7.38/kg to €7.49/kg at 86.8p to the euro. Regular suppliers are securing an additional 10p/kg or higher, with plants competing with interest from ROI buyers and demand for sheep for export to Britain.

The latest DAERA figures show 4,575 sheep imported for direct slaughter in ROI plants, up over 1,000 head on the previous week, while the number of sheep exported live to Britain has doubled in recent weeks to 1,164.

Spring lamb quotes are also up, ranging from £7.00/kg to £7.10/kg.