Factories have been keen since the start of the week to compensate for a day’s less processing and handle higher numbers on the other four days.

However, this target has not been straightforward, with lamb numbers coming on stream remaining relatively tight and average carcase weights below normal.

This is helping to generate firm competition in the market and keep a solid floor under the trade.

Quotes and prices paid are steady at last week’s levels. Base quotes range from €6.00/kg to €6.20/kg, with a high percentage of quality assured (QA) lambs trading between €6.20/kg and €6.35/kg.

The price achieved depends on the negotiating power of producers, with reports showing top prices rising to €6.40/kg and slightly higher in isolated cases when allowances on transport costs or lamb conformation bonuses are included.

Agents purchasing in marts would also require prices in excess of those quotes to deliver a margin.

Last week’s sheep kill was recorded at 58,197 head, which represents a reduction of about 6,000 on the previous week.

It comprised 49,321 lambs, 278 hoggets and 8,598 ewes and rams. Throughput of ewes has increased in the last two weeks in line with weaning.

Factories are keen for ewes, with factory quotes unchanged at a range of €3.20/kg to €3.50/kg.

Regional differences remain on paid carcase weight limits ranging from 40kg to 46kg, with some plants also keen for lighter ewes weighing less than 35kg carcase weight.

The advice is simple – with the mart trade continuing in excellent form for cull ewes, producers should weigh up all the options available and opt for the outlet which reaps the best reward for the type of ewes on hand.

The trade in Northern Ireland continues to gain some of the ground lost when prices were pulled in mid-July.

Quotes have increased by 5p/kg to 10p/kg and range from £4.80/kg to £4.90/kg or the equivalent of €5.63/kg to €5.74/kg.

Regular sellers and those trading through producer groups are securing 5p/kg to 10p/kg higher with many pushing for a price of £5/kg (€5.86/kg).

Throughput reduced by about 430 head last week and was recorded at 10,062 lambs and 569 ewes/rams.

As mentioned last week, agents purchasing on behalf of southern plants have been more active and this is reflected in the number of sheep imported south for direct slaughter at 9,507 head, an increase of 1,619 on the previous week.

Total numbers imported to-date in 2021 are running in the region of 50,000 head lower.