The ending of Ramadan (9/10 April) delivered another boost to the sheep trade, with hogget quotes rising by another 10c/kg at the start of the week.

Kildare Chilling continues to set the pace, adding another 10c to quotes for Thursday with the factory quoting a base price of €8.80/kg plus its 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment.

The two Irish Country Meats plants in Camolin and Navan are not offering an official hogget quote for Thursday, while reports indicate other plants are working at an opening quote of €8.90/kg for quality assured hoggets.

Reports indicate that regular sellers and groups are receiving returns ranging from €9/kg to €9.15/kg, with top prices rising to the equivalent of €9.20/kg-plus where allowances on transport costs are factored into the price.

Prices reported at the top end of the market as paid to specialist finishers are in cases above this level.

The tightness in supply is reflected in last week’s sheep throughput falling by 11,833 head to 47,210.

A day’s less processing had a significant influence, but reports indicate factories were keen to handle higher numbers if they were available.

The hogget kill is now running 41,270 head lower than in 2023, despite prices in recent times running €1.60/kg to €1.90/kg above the corresponding period in 2023.

Spring lamb

The tightness in hogget supplies is generating more bite for spring lambs.

There were just 757 spring lambs reported in last week’s kill figure, which is not surprising given there was a push in the previous week to get lambs marketed for the Easter trade.

Most plants are offering an opening base price of €9.20/kg, with the two ICM plants’ higher QA payment of 20c/kg and extra 0.5kg carcase weight payment (20.5kg) separating the plants. Kildare Chilling is working from a base quote of €9.20/kg plus 10c/kg QA payment.

Reports indicate farmers with negotiating power are securing returns of €9.50/kg, while, at the top end of the market, prices are rising to €9.60/kg to €9.70/kg including conformation bonuses.

The cull ewe trade has jumped 20c/kg to 30c/kg and is now at €4/kg.

Top prices reported are in the region of €4.20/kg and higher for large numbers of excellent-quality ewes.

Northern trade

The trade in Northern Ireland quickly rebounded by 10p/kg this week, with base quotes at £7/kg (€8.17/kg).

Regular sellers are securing 10p/kg to 15p/kg higher, while specialist finishers and agents are securing higher with intense competition present between factory agents and buyers exporting sheep live to Ireland and Britain.

The number of sheep exported to Ireland last week for direct slaughter reduced by 1,785 head to 6,790, but exports to Britain remain in excess of 3,500 head.

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