The dynamics of supply and demand are benefiting sheep producers at present, with throughput failing to satisfy factory demand.

Last week’s sheep kill was recorded at just 47,330 head, despite prices following an upward trajectory.

This represents a fall of 5,000 head on the previous week, with throughput also running 2,683 head lower than the corresponding week in 2023.

Reports indicate that the increase in prices witnessed at the end of last week did have an effect in encouraging more lambs forward, but that supplies are still falling short of desired throughput levels.

Factories are trying to keep a lid on price, with base quotes for Thursday unchanged in the main at a range of €6.65/kg to €6.80/kg.

There is big variation in prices paid depending on the negotiating power of the seller.

There are significant numbers of quality assured lambs trading at a range of €6.90/kg to €7/kg, with producer groups operating in the main from €6.95/kg to €7.05/kg.

Reports indicate regular sellers handling large numbers and agents are securing returns ranging from €7.10/kg to €7.15/kg, with top prices rising to €7.20/kg.

Mart prices remain buoyant and mart managers are reporting that this is driving higher numbers to the ring.

It is worth producers casting their eye on live sales to gauge the best outlet. This is especially true of the trade for cull ewes, with the live trade on average running well ahead of factory prices.

Factory quotes have lifted by 20c/kg to 30c/kg in recent weeks, but at a range of €3.00/kg to €3.20/kg are still not at the races relative to prices paid for heavy ewes in particular.

Northern trade

The trade in plants in Northern Ireland is also lively. Base quotes are £5.60/kg to £5.65/kg or the equivalent of €6.56/kg to €6.61/kg at Wednesday afternoon’s exchange rate of 85.4p to the euro.

Regular sellers and groups are trading at £5.70/kg (€6.69/kg).

Similar to Ireland, agents purchasing lambs from mart sales and possessing greater negotiating power are securing higher prices, with factories keen to ward off the interest of agents purchasing sheep for export to plants in Ireland. Top prices are rising to £5.75/kg to £5.80/kg.

There is also deals being done on carcase weight. The standard payment limit remains at 22kg, but some sellers are also negotiating 22.5kg to 23kg carcase weight.

Reports from mart managers also show higher numbers navigating to the ring.

A differential of 50p/kg has opened up between prices in Northern Ireland and Britain.

The latest AHDB report shows prices rising 23p to £6.32/kg (€7.40/kg), with reports showing that processors are also struggling to source required numbers. This is also likely to regenerate interest in sheep exported live from Northern Ireland to Britain.