The sheep trade remains in a state of freefall, with another 50c/kg, or upwards of €10/head, wiped of the value of lambs this week.

Base quotes fell by 20c/kg over the weekend in all plants, with factories also reducing quotes by 30c/kg for Thursday.

This leaves opening prices at €7/kg plus the respective quality assurance payments of 10c/kg to 20c/kg.

The exception to this is Ballon Meats, which is quoting an all-in price of €7.50/kg for top-quality lambs.

The only other plants officially quoting in the price table are the two Irish Country Meats plants on a base of €7/kg plus the factories’ 20c/kg quality assurance payment.

Producer groups are trading in the region of €7.30/kg, with top prices including conformation bonuses rising to upwards of €7.40/kg.

Individual sellers with lower negotiating power are struggling to negotiate above €7.20/kg to €7.25/kg.

Last week’s sheep kill increased by 4,364 head and was recorded at 48,386. This included 42,351 lambs, while hoggets continue to be slaughtered at a low level of 1,641.

The ewe and ram kill was recorded at just 4,392 head, some 2,413 lower than the corresponding week in 2023.

This is helping to keep a firm floor under the trade, with quotes in the region of €3.90/kg to €4.00/kg.

At the top end of the market, choice ewes are trading in abattoirs specialising in the ewe trade from €4.20/kg to €4.40/kg.

The mart trade remains a good outlet for heavy types, with buyers purchasing ewes for live export or to fill niche contracts remaining active and competing with factory agents who have exhibited a greater appetite for ewes in recent weeks.

Northern trade

Prices have also come under further pressure in Northern Ireland, with plants cutting quotes by 30p to 60p/kg earlier this week. That puts base prices on 550p/kg (€6.82/kg inc VAT), although farmers indicate 570p/kg (€7.05/kg) is available and deals of 580p/kg (€7.20/kg) have been paid in return for good numbers of meal-fed lambs.

Due to the July bank holidays, northern marts are closed this week and plants are closing on Friday, with one factory also closed on Monday. That is temporarily distorting the trade from a price and supply perspective, as plants require fewer animals to meet throughput.

Once plants return to normal schedules from next week, there are some signals that supplies will tighten, as mid-season flocks wean lambs and that may make it harder for northern plants to make the latest price cuts stick.

In Britain, the live trade has seen slaughter-fit lambs falling to prices between £130 and £140 (€153 to €165), while the deadweight price for the week ending 6 July is reported by the AHDB at £6.80/kg with a further 20p/kg to 30p/kg cut on the cards this week.