This week’s 20c/kg to 30c/kg increase in lamb prices is resulting in a high percentage of producers trading within a price range of €6.60/kg to €6.70/kg.

Top prices paid to producer group members, including lamb conformation bonuses, and to sellers handling large numbers are rising to €6.75/kg to €6.80/kg.

Factories have also been more open to offering higher weight allowances rather than increase prices.

Almost all plants will pay to 22.5kg carcase weight when pushed to it by sellers with good bargaining power, while those trading at the top of the market are, in cases, securing 23kg carcase weight and allowances on transport.

There is also lots of talk in the trade of specialist finishers offering numbers of lambs in the hundreds rather than in the 10s negotiating returns of €6.90/kg to €7.00/kg.

At the other end of the market, some factories are trying to open quotes at €6.50/kg for quality assured lambs, but the reality is that there is more going even for producers with lower negotiating power.

This is demonstrated by Kildare Chilling’s base quote of €6.50/kg plus the 10c/kg quality assurance bonus. In such cases, it is worth weighing up if the mart trade may be a better outlet.

The tightening in numbers began last week and this is reflected in the weekly kill figure. Throughput last week was recorded at 57,768 head, a decrease of 5,467 on the previous week.

The ewe kill also continues to reduce significantly and was recorded at 8,939 head.

The lower numbers and increase in lamb price is also edging ewe prices upwards, with some factory quotes up by 10c/kg, while liveweight prices are up anywhere from €3 to €10/head.

Significant variation exists between prices paid in different plants and indeed marts.

The general factory quote is €3.00/kg to €3.10/kg, but up to €3.30/kg is being paid to sellers trading ewes in the main plants, while prices in plants specialising in top-quality ewes for niche market demand are rising to €3.40/kg to €3.60/kg.

Northern trade

Base quotes in factories in Northern Ireland have increased by 10p/kg to 15p/kg and sit at £5.30/kg or the equivalent of €6.15/kg at 86.2p to the euro.

Regular sellers are securing returns of £5.40/kg to £5.45/kg (€6.26/kg to €6.32/kg), with factories also giving in on requests for higher carcase weight limits to prevent losing sales to agents purchasing on behalf of southern plants.

At 7,831 head, the number of sheep exported south last week for direct slaughter fell by 1,490 head on the previous week.

The trade in Britain has also increased sharply. Last week’s SQQ deadweight price increased by 12.7p/kg to £5.47/kg (€6.34/kg) and reports this week show prices ranging anywhere from £5.60/kg to upwards of £5.75/kg (€6.50/kg and €6.67/kg) depending on the part of the country and tightness in supply.