Farmers’ hopes of the sheep trade remaining on an upward trajectory have been diminished this week.

Base quotes in the two Irish Country Meats Plants in Camolin and Navan remain at €5.95/kg plus the factories’ 20c/kg quality assurance (QA) bonus.

Meanwhile, Kildare Chilling’s base quote is going in the wrong direction, reducing by 10c/kg to a base of €6.00/kg plus the plant’s 10c/kg QA payment.

Some producer groups report base quotes in Dawn Meats and Kepak have strengthened by 5c/kg since last week to €6.10/kg plus these plants’ QA bonuses of 10c/kg and 15c/kg respectively, but there is still no official quote from either plant.

This leaves a high percentage of quality assured lamb trading in excess of €6.20/kg.

Producers with a bit more negotiating power or trading through groups are securing returns ranging from €6.30/kg to €6.40/kg, with the higher price in some cases confined to U grade hoggets.

There have been reports of some sellers securing returns of €6.45/kg to €6.50/kg or higher for large consignments of hoggets at the end of last week and start of this week.

Reports indicate there is possibly higher numbers of hoggets in the market this week and that this has taken the pressure off plants and tempered chances of continued price recovery.

Last week’s sheep kill increased by 2,000 head to reach 50,013 head.

This is on a par with the corresponding week in 2022, with the difference of the hogget kill being about 1,500 head higher and the ewe and ram kill 2,000 head lower.

The main factories are quoting in the region of €3.00/kg to €3.20/kg, with Kildare Chilling increasing its ewe quote to €3.20/kg plus 10c/kg QA.

Ballon Meats’ quote of €3.40/kg reflects the higher demand for top-quality ewes delivered to the required specification.

Northern trade

The trade in factories in Northern Ireland has moved on again this week, with quotes increasing by 10p/kg. This leaves base quotes at £5.30/kg or the equivalent of €6.01/kg at an exchange rate of 88.3p to the euro.

Regular sellers with greater negotiating power or those trading through groups are securing 10p/kg to 15p/kg higher.

Reports indicate that the trade is being helped by keen demand from factory agents purchasing hoggets for direct slaughter in southern plants or for moving on to farms in Ireland.

Last week’s sheep kill was recorded at 8,519 head, about 200 head lower week on week. The number of sheep exported south for direct slaughter was just over 200 head higher at 5,679. There were 12,266 sheep exported to farms in January, which represents a year-on-year increase of 5,000 head.

The trade in Northern Ireland has moved ahead of British prices. There is significant variation between prices reported, ranging from £5.10/kg to £5.20/kg in many areas, rising to £5.30/kg in others.