There has been a slight recovery in the sheep trade over the last week.

Factory base quotes have increased by 10c/kg to 20c/kg, but it should be pointed out that the price recovery has a long way to go to recoup the full 50c/kg-plus loss in value in previous weeks.

The increase in quotes has stemmed from a combination of tight supplies and improved demand.

The tighter supplies are reflected in last week’s sheep kill falling from 59,402 head to 48,006 head.

Within this, hogget throughput was recorded at 40,878 head, while the ewe and ram kill was recorded at 7,125 head.

The two Irish Country Meats plants have increased their quotes by 15c/kg to a base of €5.95/kg. The group has increased its quality assurance quote by 10c/kg to 20c/kg.

Kildare Chilling resumed quoting at the start of the week with a base of €6.10/kg plus their 10c/kg QA bonus.

Plants not quoting are said to be working off a base quote of €6.05/kg to €6.10/kg with groups and individual farmers in cases being offered a different base quote.

Individual farmers handling small numbers and not possessing strong negotiating power are typically trading in the region of €6.10/kg to €6.20/kg.

Regular sellers and groups have seen average prices increase by 10c/kg to 15c/kg by means of the higher base quotes and Kildare Chilling’s quote with prices ranging from €6.25/kg to €6.40/kg, including producer bonuses.

At the top end of the market, there are reports of 5c/kg to 10c/kg higher being paid to agents and specialist finishers, with factories particularly keen to tie into supplies of well-fleshed lambs.

Demand has improved, but factories are still voicing caution regarding reports of potentially higher supplies of lower-priced New Zealand lamb.

Farmers will be watching developments closely regarding Dawn Meats’ purchase of Kildare Chilling. The latter has consistently quoted the highest base price to farmers in recent years and with Dawn Meats generally not quoting, or quoting sporadically when they do, many farmers are voicing grave concerns.

This also applies to farmers outside of those supplying the plant directly, with producer groups relying on their higher quote to lift their price and provide a just reward for delivering sheep to tight specifications.

Northern Ireland

Base quotes in Northern Ireland have increased by 20p/kg to 25p/kg and are listed at £5.20/kg for Thursday.

This is the equivalent of €5.90/kg at an exchange rate of 88.2p to the euro. Last week’s sheep kill tightened significantly, reducing from 10,683 head to 8,708.

The number of sheep exported south for direct slaughter also tightened significantly, falling by close to 1,500 head to 5,284. Any overhang in supplies caused by last week’s snowfall have now passed through the system with demand strong.