The strong demand exhibited by factories for hoggets for the Ramadan festival is demonstrated in last week’s sheep kill rising by almost 14,000 head to reach 67,085.

The increase was primarily in hoggets, with the ewe and ram kill remaining relatively small at 4,377 head, while the first spring lambs of the season were handled, with throughput recorded at 587 head.

Factory attention is now also turning to starting to fill orders for the Easter trade and this is inserting a strong floor under demand.

It is leaving factories having to work harder to entice numbers forward, with prices increasing by 10c/kg at the start of the week and, in many cases, by a similar figure for Thursday.

Kildare Chilling has increased its hogget quote by 20c/kg to €6.70/kg plus its 20c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment.

The two Irish Country Meats plants in Navan and Camolin also increased by 20c/kg to a base of €6.55/kg plus their 20c/kg QA payment.

Reports indicate that other competing plants have also upped their base quotes to €6.60/kg to €6.70/kg.

Factories are competing outside of their normal catchment areas, with reports of lambs being poached from producer groups.

An increasing number of hoggets are now trading from €6.80/kg to €6.95/kg, with top prices surpassing €7/kg.

Factories have also increased their appetite for spring lambs, although there is significant variation present. Base quotes have stayed similar since the start of the week and range from €7.40/kg to €7.50/kg, with prices paid for quality assured lamb averaging in the region of €7.50/kg to €7.60/kg for sellers trading individually and rising to €7.70/kg and slightly higher for lambs traded through groups.

The two Irish Country Meats plants are quoting a base of €7.45/kg plus the company’s 20c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment to a carcase weight limit of 20.5kg.

Kildare Chilling is quoting a base of €7.40/kg plus 10c/kg QA payment to a carcase weight limit of 20kg.

Other plants not quoting are reported from a base quote of €7.45/kg to €7.50/kg, with the carcase weight limit said to be in the region of 20kg.

Reports indicate spring lambs are killing positively and this should be taken into account in drafting lambs and determining the best market avenue.

A couple of plants are active for small quantities of milk lamb, with prices quoted in the region of €9/kg for lambs weighing between 10kg and 14kg, with contracts generally filled by farmers targeting small numbers to this market.

The trade in Northern Ireland has firmed, with quotes rising to £5.65/kg and 15p/kg to 20p/kg higher going to regular sellers.

Last week’s kill increased by 2,000 head to reach over 10,400, while the number of sheep exported south for direct slaughter was 8,501.