The sheep trade has been solid over the last week despite some attempts by factories to ease back prices.

The move by factories started with some agents offering prices which were 10c/kg lower on Friday. This gained little traction, however, after many finishers refused to move hoggets at the lower quotes.

It has probably stifled the number of fancy prices paid at the top end of the market, but in general the trade has held solid this week.

Hoggets continue to trade, with specialist finishers and producers handling large numbers or marketing sheep through groups in the region of €7.25/kg to €7.40/kg.

There are continued reports of €7.50/kg being secured in isolated cases but this is confined to finishers and agents handling numbers in the hundreds. Some finishers also continue to secure a price of €7.30/kg plus transport ,which brings prices to the equivalent of €7.40/kg to €7.45/kg. Reports on Wednesday indicate some factories are again trying to ease quotes back by 10c/kg to 15c/kg. The success of this will depend on factory resolve, with numbers remaining relatively tight and strong competition in the market.

Last week’s kill fell by 2,102 head to 43,356 but this was underpinned by a day’s less processing due to St Patrick’s Day. The fact that the kill only fell by that level also shows the appetite to maximise throughput, with many plants working on filling orders for the Easter trade.

Spring lamb

Spring lamb throughput remains relatively low, with factories happy to handle a higher number of lambs to satisfy orders for the Easter market and pay 10c/kg to 20c/kg higher.

The general run of prices for spring lambs remains at €7.70/kg to €7.90/kg, with isolated deals 10c/kg to 20c/kg higher and underpinned in cases by competition from wholesalers and butchers.

IFA national sheep chair Sean Dennehy said: “Buying for the Easter trade is in full swing and will be followed immediately afterwards by Ramadan, which starts on 13 April. Numbers are extremely tight and factories and wholesalers are competing strongly and paying €7.30/kg to €7.40/kg for QA hoggets, with higher deals available for groups and larger lots. Spring lamb quotes have increased, with over €8.00/kg paid to secure supplies.”

Meanwhile the trade in Northern Ireland is also solid, with hoggets trading from £6.40/kg to £6.60/kg or the equivalent of €7.48/kg to €7.60/kg. Spring lambs are holding similar premium over hoggets as in the south with prices ranging from £7/kg to £7.10/kg (€8.18/kg to €8.30/kg). The sheep kill dropped by in the region of 1,000 head to 7,137 last week while the number of sheep exported south was recorded at 4,213.