Hogget prices have edged upwards again this week, despite base quotes not recording much movement.

Kildare Chilling has lifted its base quote by 10c/kg to €8.10/kg plus 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment.

It is joined this week for QA hoggets by the two Irish Country Meats plants in Camolin and Navan, which have increased their base quote by 15c/kg to €8/kg plus 20c/kg QA payment and Ballon Meats on €8.20/kg.

Individual sellers handling small numbers and with less negotiating power are typically offered €8.20/kg to €8.25/kg, but higher is being paid, with factories keen to attract these sheep direct to the plant rather than competing for them in a vibrant mart trade.

Regular sellers and producers trading through groups have seen returns rise to upwards of €8.30/kg owing to the increase in base quotes.

Top prices including conformation bonuses are 10c/kg higher, while some deals also include allowances on transport costs.

Specialist finishers handling large numbers and agents are securing returns north of €8.40/kg to €8.50/kg or more favourable terms on carcase weight and transport.

The maximum price for a 23.5kg hogget carcase at €8.40/kg is €197.40.

Producers with heavy hoggets need to weigh up the most lucrative outlet, with hogget prices in live sales increasing at a faster rate than deadweight prices.

Last week’s kill was recorded at 61,248 head. This represents an increase of over 13,000 sheep on the previous week, but still lags close to 6,000 head lower than the week leading in to Ramadan in 2023.

Peak buying for Ramadan occurs at the start and end of the religious festival, but it also delivers a boost across the entire period (10 March to 9 April).

With tight supplies in the market, attention will soon turn to try to fill orders for Easter demand (31 March).

Spring lamb

This is evident in demand building for milk lamb and spring lamb. The two Irish Country Meats plants are the first to quote for spring lamb, with a base of €9/kg plus 20c/kg QA. The plants are quoting €10/kg for milk lamb for a carcase weight between 10kg and 13kg and will start to process such sheep from next week.

Ewe quotes are unchanged, ranging in the main from €3.30/kg to €3.40/kg, with plants and abattoirs specialising in the trade paying upwards of €3.60/kg. The mart remains a good alternative.

NI trade

Base quotes in NI have jumped by 30p/kg to 40p/kg and range from £6.80/kg to £6.90/kg. This better reflects prices paid, with sellers trading at the top end of the market securing returns of £7/kg (€8.17/kg).

The move also aims to stem the flow of sheep to Ireland (9,215) and Britain, with over 13,000 exported last week.