Thankfully, the trend of a cut to base prices at the beginning of the week followed by a midweek cut has stalled this week, with prices firm from earlier in the week, although a 20c/kg cut has still been seen from this day last week.

Base quotes for Thursday for those factories that are quoting range from €6.00/kg to €6.30/kg.

Again, the two Irish Country Meats (ICM) plants in Camolin and Navan are the only plants from the five main processors quoting this week, with a base price of €6.00/kg plus their 20c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment.

Kildare Chilling, Kepak Group and Dawn Meats have all failed to quote again this week, with the latter two failing to do so for a number of weeks now.

The difficulty in sourcing well-fleshed lambs is reflected in Ballon Meats quoting a stronger all-in price of €6.30/kg.

All factories are reporting issues with lambs coming in underweight and under-fleshed, which is affecting the price being paid to farmers.

Many factories are cutting underweight or under-fleshed lambs by 50c/kg to €1/kg, while the ICM plants have increased their carcase weight paid limit from 21.5kg to 22kg in order to encourage producers to retain lambs for a longer period.

While it has not been confirmed by other factories, deals for carcases up to 22kg are being struck to secure properly finished lambs.

The move by some farmers to move off lambs at lighter carcase weights as opposed to holding lambs and receiving a similar price per head after additional feeding is likely contributing to the increasing numbers of carcases below 18kg.

The number of lambs falling below target specification for carcase weight and fat cover is also likely due to the prolonged period of wet weather and farmers slow to introduce concentrates to lambs with falling prices.

Factories are urging farmers to take into consideration the flesh cover on lambs, with typical kill outs 2% to 4% behind what most farmers would be used to.

The continued pressure on prices is stemming from falling prices in Australian lamb imports, with Australian lamb now trading at €3.50/kg equivalent.

With Australian prices so low, Irish lamb will remain under pressure

Overall, the lack of a drop in price since the start of the week should be taken as a small positive and may indicate a slight steadying of the ship.

NI prices

Prices in Northern Ireland have slipped in a similar fashion to southern prices, with base quotes of £5.05/kg to £5.10/kg down 15p to 20p/kg on the week previous.

Supplies of good-quality lambs are also reported as being in tight supply and regular sellers and groups are securing 5p/kg to 15p/kg higher for lambs meeting the required specification.