There has been further upwards momentum in the sheep trade this week, with quotes lifting by 10c/kg.

Kildare Chilling continues to set the pace with its base quote of €6.50/kg plus its 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment.

The two ICM plants are quoting bases of €6.35/kg plus 20c/kg QA, while Ballon Meats is quoting an all-in price of €6.50/kg. Other plants not quoting are reported as offering bases of €6.35/kg to €6.45/kg.

Significant numbers of lambs are now trading upwards of €6.55/kg, with producer groups and regular sellers securing returns of €6.60/kg to €6.70/kg for R grading lambs.

Prices at the top end of the market are exceeding this range, with prices paid to some groups for U grading lambs and to sellers handling very large numbers rising to €6.75/kg to upwards of €6.80/kg.

Factories are trying to retain carcase weight limits at 22.5kg, but some are offering an extra half a kilo to close deals concerning large numbers.

Certain deals also include allowances on transport costs, but in such cases, it is generally at prices of €6.60/kg to €6.70/kg rather than the top prices listed above. It is important to note that the higher prices are also confined to good-quality, fleshed lambs meeting the required specification.

Prices are running 20c/kg to 25c/kg ahead of the corresponding period in 2022.

The increase in price is being underpinned by keen demand and relatively tight supplies of well-fleshed lambs.

Last week’s throughput rebounded from the previous four-day week, with the kill increasing by 10,000 head to 61,297.

It is four weeks since throughput surpassed the 60,000 head mark, with rising prices tempting numbers forward.

The kill has almost caught up with the corresponding week in 2022, with lamb throughput about 850 head lower and ewe throughput 1,000 head lower. Year-to-date lamb throughput is 83,810 lower than in 2022, with ewe throughput 45,692 head lower.

Northern trade

Plants in Northern Ireland have been working to peak capacity to try to compensate for reduced throughput during recent strike action.

Reports indicate that any backlog in sheep numbers is nearly exhausted and this is reflected in factory agents increasing activity in marts and direct farm sales.

Base quotes of £5.25/kg, or the equivalent of €6.01/kg at 87.2p to the euro, are up by 5p/kg on last week.

However, reports indicate that an increasing number of farmers are securing 5p/kg higher, with top prices rising to £5.35/kg to £5.40/kg (€6.13/kg to €6.19/kg).

The number of sheep exported from Northern Ireland for direct slaughter in Ireland increased by 1,500 head to 7,531 head last week, with this outlet also helping to work through any backlog in supplies.