Base hogget quotes for Thursday are up 10c to 20c on the week, but remain unchanged from Monday, with factories reducing intensity ahead of the Easter break.

Plants still have a keen appetite for sheep, but with many factories not processing on Good Friday and Easter Monday, the same level of urgency is not present.

Opening quotes for quality assured (QA) hoggets remain at €8.70/kg.

Regular sellers and groups are trading in the region of €8.90/kg, with top prices hitting €9/kg and higher for specialist finishers with greater negotiating power.

Big numbers have been presented over the last week, boosted by ewe hoggets coming on stream and adverse weather encouraging farmers to move hoggets.

Last week’s sheep kill was recorded at 53,992 head. This represents a fall of 7,452, but when the day’s less processing is taken into account, it shows the level of intensity at which plants have been working to.

Reports indicate plants were also working close to peak capacity for the first three days of this week.

This tallies with reports from mart sales of lorries leaving sales before they finished to get sheep to the lairage for that day’s kill.

Demand should pick up again quickly with the end of the Ramadan festival on 9 April.

The live trade for spring lambs has overshadowed the deadweight trade.

The two Irish Country Meats plants remain the only factories quoting for lamb. They are offering a base price of €9/kg plus 20c/kg QA payment.

Factories are continuing to try to gain a competitive advantage on the ewe trade.

Quotes have increased by 20c/kg to €3.70/kg to €3.80/kg and a top of €4/kg in Ballon Meats.

Reports indicate there are fewer producers opting to trade direct and showing ewes live to take advantage of a vibrant trade.

The kill figure for ewes has remained in the region of 5,500 in factories in recent weeks, but this does not reflect the overall number of ewes being drafted off farms, with ewes being exported live and also processed in local authority approved plants.

Booming British trade

The trade in Britain has increased by almost 90p/kg in the last fortnight.

The latest AHDB market report on Wednesday says average hogget prices for last week increasing by some 49p/kg and averaging £8.34/kg or the equivalent of €9.73/kg at 85.7p to the euro.

This has opened up a differential of more than £1/kg on Northern Ireland, with factories there actually pulling hogget quotes for Thursday by 10p/kg.

Base quotes are £6.90/kg (€8.05/kg) but £7/kg to £7.10/kg is still being paid. In excess of 8,000 sheep are still being exported for direct slaughter in Ireland, with 3,500 to Britain.