Lamb prices have recorded significant upward movement this week. Prices increased by 20c/kg at the start of the week and have recorded another lift of 10c/kg for Thursday.

Kildare Chilling continues to set the pace, with the plant lifting its base quote by 30c/kg this week and now quoting €7.10/kg plus its 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment.

The move has put pressure on competing plants to follow suit.

The two Irish Country Meats plants in Camolin and Navan are quoting a base of €6.85/kg plus 20c/kg QA payment, while Ballon Meats is quoting an all-in price of €7/kg. Both these quotes represent an increase of 20c/kg on last week.

Plants not offering official quotes were reported as opening negotiations on Wednesday on a base of €6.90/kg to €6.95/kg, leaving opening prices for QA lambs in the region of €7.10/kg.

Kildare Chilling’s increase has opened up a differential with other plants and set a new benchmark for quality assured lamb, with farmers trading in the plant automatically securing €7.20/kg for QA lamb.

Farmers trading through groups and regular sellers will now see prices averaging in the region of €7.25/kg to 7.30/kg.

Sellers handling large numbers and possessing greater bargaining power are pushing returns to €7.35/kg to €7.40/kg. There is also deals being completed at a higher carcase weight payment of 23.5kg, but this is typically at the lower end of the price range listed above.

Last week’s sheep kill was recorded at 45,523 head. This is a reduction of almost 8,000 on the previous week, but it must be noted that there was a day’s less processing.

The kill was 2,265 lower than the corresponding week in 2023, despite prices running €1/kg higher.

Ewe trade

The ewe trade has also firmed, with greater appetite for all classes of ewes.

Factory quotes range from €3.00/kg to €3.20/kg in the main, with Ballon Meats leading on €3.40/kg. Prices in the main processing plants are in general lagging behind the live trade for heavier ewes.

Fleshed ewes weighing 85kg to 90kg-plus are trading from €140 to €175, depending on quality and flesh cover, with top-quality heavy ewes weighing as much as 100kg selling to €200 and over on occasion.

Northern trade

There is also upward pressure on the trade in Northern Ireland, with factories paying more to regular sellers to ward off interest from agents purchasing sheep for direct export in southern plants.

Prices started the week at £5.80/kg to £5.90/kg, with base quotes for Thursday increasing to £5.90/kg.

This is leaving many producers now securing returns of £6/kg with top prices rising to upwards of £6.10/kg.

The number of sheep exported south for direct slaughter reduced last week to 6,685, down 2,600 head on the previous week.