The sheep trade is on a positive footing this week, as factory agents exhibit greater appetite for slaughter-fit lambs and hoggets.
Tighter supplies has intensified buying competition and this is underpinning the trade. Hoggets, in particular, are extremely scarce and where numbers are being offered for sale, quality is extremely variable.
As supplies of spring lamb are yet to reach a level that can solely maintain factory throughput, processors are heavily reliant on producer groups and the live ring to bridge any shortfalls in throughput.
Earlier this week, reports indicate that hoggets were initially moving off farm from €7.20/kg to €7.35/kg.
But by Wednesday, reports pointed towards hoggets moving around €7.40/kg, with up to €7.50/kg on offer to specialist finishers handling large numbers.
For spring lambs, Kildare Chilling has left base quotes unchanged on €7.70/kg, payable to a 20kg carcase limit.
Irish Country Meats (ICM) is unchanged on €7.50/kg, although it is working to a carcase limit of 20.5kg.
Dawn Meats is also on a base of €7.50/kg, with Ballon Meats on an all-in quote of €7.60kg.
Farmers report that deals on offer start around €7.65/kg and rise to €7.80/kg for those with limited numbers to offload.
Where farmers are marketing lambs through producer groups or handling bigger numbers, factory agents are much more flexible, with deals of €7.90/kg to €8/kg on offer at the upper end of the market.
ICM has increased its quote for ewes by 20c/kg, which now stands at €3.20/kg.
This is being matched by Dawn Meats, while Kildare Chilling and Ballon Meats are both on €3.30/kg.
Demand for ewes is also holding firm, with price deals of €3.40/kg to €3.60/kg on offer, depending on the type of animals required.
Some plants are concentrating more on ewes with lighter carcase weights around 35kg, while others are offering premiums over base for heavier sorts.
In Northern Ireland, the trade has strengthened with base quotes up 10p to 620p/kg (€7.60/kg inc VAT) for lambs, while hoggets are up 30p/kg to a base of 600p/kg (€7.30/kg).
Supplies are also tightening and farmers are securing 640p/kg for lambs (€7.84/kg), with hoggets holding more or less in line with quotes.
In Britain, spring lambs are limited in availability and last week, price reports indicate 685p/kg (€8.40/kg) was available, while hoggets averaged 644p/kg (€7.89/kg).