There is a steady start to the lamb trade in the last full week of processing in 2023.

A high percentage of quality assured (QA) lambs are trading from €6.60/kg to €6.70/kg.

Prices at the top end of the market are rising to €6.75/kg to €6.80/kg where conformation bonuses are included for U and E grading lambs.

Sellers handling small numbers of non-QA lambs are trading in the region of €6.45/kg to €6.50/kg, while producers with higher numbers and greater negotiating power are selling to €6.60/kg.

Producers struggling to negotiate on price should weigh up the live trade, with prices firm in mart sales.

Factories are expressing a strong appetite for lambs, but numbers coming on stream are satisfying demand and taking the pressure off plants to alter price to attract out higher numbers.

Ewe trade

The ewe trade is unchanged, with significant variation remaining between plants.

Quotes for heavier ewes weighing upwards of 35kg range from €2.70/kg to €3.00/kg, with lighter and plainer-quality ewes quoted back to €2.60/kg and lower where ewes are lacking flesh.

At the top end of the market, abattoirs and smaller processing plants most active in the ewe trade are paying to €3.20/kg to €3.30/kg for ewes delivered to tight specification.

Again, the advice is to weigh up whether the live or dead trade is the best outlet. Producers should also clarify potential cuts on ewes lacking flesh - where relevant - and carcase weight limits.

Northern trade

Quotes in plants in Northern Ireland remain unchanged at a range of £5.30/kg to £5.35/kg or the equivalent of €6.13/kg to €6.19/kg at an exchange rate of 86.4p to the euro.

Regular sellers and groups continue to secure 5p/kg to 10p/kg above base quotes.

The flow of lambs from Northern Ireland for direct slaughter in southern plants is solid, with volumes traded to date in 2023 steady on last year’s levels.

The latest Livestock and Meat Commission market update shows British lamb prices continuing to average £5.88/kg. This is the equivalent of €6.81/kg, significantly ahead of the trade in Northern Ireland and Ireland.