Sheep prices have started the week unchanged, with base quotes in plants continuing to range from €6.00/kg to €6.20/kg. The general run of prices for quality assured lambs ranges from €6.20/kg to €6.30/kg for sellers trading individually with no additional negotiating power and from €6.30/kg to €6.40/kg for lambs traded through producer groups or from sellers capable of commanding higher returns.

There are reports of higher prices being paid, but numbers trading at such levels are confined to a cohort of agents trading at the top end of the market. Some of these sellers are also negotiating a higher paid carcase weight limit of 22kg.

The strength of these buyers is seen in their purchasing power in mart sales with well-fleshed heavy lambs, in sales with a strong presence of butcher and wholesale buyers selling above equivalent deadweight prices.

The deadweight trade in Northern Ireland has firmed, with factories moving to improve their competitiveness as buyers are purchasing lambs for exporting for direct slaughter in plants in Ireland. Base quotes for Monday strengthened by 5p/kg to 10//kg to £5.00/kg. Top prices are in the region of £5.10/kg to £5.15/kg.

Factory agents are being helped in their efforts by sterling continuing to regain lost ground. At Monday evening’s exchange rate of 86.8p to the euro, a base quote of £5/kg equates to €5.76/kg.

Mart round-up

Kilkenny mart auctioneer George Chandler reported that the trade on Monday was holding similar to last week. Lambs weighing 50kg to 53kg are reported as selling from €138 to €140 per head with a few lots of lambs weighing up to 55kg selling to a high of €147 per head. Lambs weighing 45kg to 47kg meanwhile sold from €130 to €132 per head.

Reports from Ennis Mart on Monday point to the trade just about holding its own on the previous week. Good-quality fleshed lambs weighing around the 50kg mark sold from €137 to €142, with heavier lambs, including a selection of top-quality ewe lambs, rising to €150 per head. Lambs lacking flesh, in contrast, sold back to €130 and lower for plain-quality types.