All classes of sheep are meeting a fantastic trade with factories increasing activity in a bid to fill orders for the Easter trade (Sunday 31 March).

Kildare Chilling increased their base quote by 20c/kg last Thursday, setting the scene for the increased competition that has ensued since then.

The plant is again driving the trade this Thursday and has increased its quote by 20c/kg to €8.50/kg plus their 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment to 23kg carcase weight.

This has once again inserted pressure on competing plants to follow suit.

Ballon Meats is offering an all-in price of €8.50/kg. Most other plants were reported on Wednesday as offering an opening quote of €8.40/kg for quality assured hoggets but it is likely that this price may have increased since then.

The increase in Kildare chilling’s quote is lifting prices across the board with producer groups paid on the average of base quotes plus a bonus payment now securing returns ranging from €8.60/kg to €8.70/kg and higher for U grade lambs.

Regular sellers are having more success in securing similar while at the top end of the market prices are now heading for €9/kg for specialist finishers handling big numbers.

Deals also continue to be completed at 24kg carcase weight and allowances on transport costs with agents willing to raise offers to secure big numbers.

The two Irish Country Meats plants are the only plants officially quoting again this week for spring lamb. Their quote remains unchanged at a base of €9/kg plus its 20c/kg quality assurance bonus.

The plants in Camolin and Navan are also exceeding the standard carcase weight limit of 20kg at this time of year and are quoting to 20.5kg carcase weight.

Higher prices are being paid to regular producers offering lambs for the Easter trade and to agents. Producers struggling to negotiate with factories should weigh up prices in mart sales with prices reported to-date in excess of the factory trade.

Ewe trade

The ewe trade is also displaying more life with quotes up 10c/kg and averaging around the €3.50/kg mark. Prices of €3.60/kg to €3.70/kg are being paid for good-quality ewes in export-orientated plants while the trade in plants specialising in the ewe trade is much hotter.

This is reflected in Ballon Meats quote of €4/kg. The live trade has really taken off and producers should be weighing up all options, particularly for heavier ewes that will exceed carcase weight payment limits.

Northern trade

Base quotes in Northern factories have increased by 10p/kg to 20p/kg and are starting from £7/kg. This equates to €8.20/kg at Wednesday afternoon’s exchange rate of 85.4p to the euro. Regular sellers and groups are securing 10p/kg to 15p/kg higher with specialist finishers and agents securing a premium on price to ward off interest from agents purchasing sheep for export to Ireland or Britain.

The latest AHDB price report shows British hogget prices jumping 46p/kg last week and now heading for £8/kg (€9.34/kg).