Lamb quotes for Thursday have increased by 10c/kg in the main sheep processing plants.

Kildare Chilling continues to lead the price table, with its base quote of €6.70/kg plus 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment. The two ICM plants in Camolin and Navan have followed suit and are quoting a base of €6.55/kg plus 20c/kg QA.

The upward movement leaves a significant number of lambs now trading from €6.80/kg to €6.90/kg.

Top prices paid to producer groups including conformation bonuses have now, in cases, reached and exceeded the €7/kg mark.

Specialist finishers handling large numbers are also said to be holding out for similar returns, while the purchasing behaviour of agents in mart sales indicates that they are also receiving more favourable terms.

The cold, dry weather has brought about a massive improvement in the cleanliness of lambs presented for slaughter and greatly increased compliance with the clean livestock policy.

It is worth farmers taking the opportunity while conditions allow to house sheep dry for drafting, where applicable.

Last week’s sheep kill was recorded at 57,313 head. There is little point comparing it against the previous shorter week’s kill, but looking year on year, it was 2,089 head lower than the corresponding week in 2023. The greatest reduction was in ewes, with throughput of 6,515 head 17% lower year on year.

The tighter supplies in the market in recent weeks has lifted the appetite for ewes, with quotes in some plants up 20c/kg in the last two weeks. Quotes typically range from €2.80/kg to €3/kg, with some plants retaining a 15c/kg to 20c/kg differential between ewes above and below 35kg carcase weight.

There is much more life in the live ewe trade this week, with reports pointing to growing appetite for heavy ewes. It is important to assess the trade and gauge the best outlet to maximise returns.

Northern trade

Base quotes in plants in Northern Ireland are unchanged at £5.40/kg. This is the equivalent of €6.29/kg at Wednesday afternoon’s exchange rate of 85.9p to the euro. Groups and regular sellers are securing returns of £5.50/kg to £5.55/kg (€6.40/kg to €6.46/kg).

Factories are reluctant to pass this mark, but are having to look after agents purchasing in mart sales, with higher prices or more favourable terms on weight to ward off interest from southern plants purchasing sheep for direct slaughter.

The appetite from agents purchasing lambs to go south is reflected in last week’s export figure for direct slaughter topping the 10,000 head mark and recorded at 10,900.

A significant differential exists between prices in Northern Ireland and Britain or Ireland. The latest market update from the Agriculture Horticulture Development Board shows British lamb prices averaging £6.06/kg (€7.06/kg) last week.