The religious festivals of Easter and Ramadan have been highly advantageous for the sheep sector in 2023 and delivered one of the strongest price lifts in recent years.

The end of Ramadan this week delivered a final boost, with prices lifting by anywhere from 20c/kg to 35c/kg.

This increase materialised last weekend, with factories struggling to source their required numbers and reacting strongly in a bid to entice higher numbers forward.

The tightness in supplies is reflected in last week’s sheep kill falling by over 15,000 head to 47,026.

This is still a relatively good level of throughput for one day’s less processing, but the previous week also had one day’s less processing.

The increase in quotes has brought all factories to a base of €7.20/kg.

When quality assurance payments are factored into account, it leaves hoggets trading in the main around the €7.40/kg mark, with producers and sellers with greater negotiating power or trading through groups securing €7.50/kg excluding conformation-related bonus payments or allowances towards transport costs.

Kildare’s quote if for Thursday and ICM for Thursday / Friday. Factories caution of reduced demand in the wake of Ramadan but tight numbers will also have a role to play in determining prices.

Reports suggest supplies in the UK and many EU countries are tighter than expected.

Lamb umbers available have eased back, with just 1,760 lambs handled last week.

The general base price offered for lambs is €7.90/kg plus the respective bonuses. This leaves lambs trading freely from €8.00/kg to €8.10/kg, with prices at the higher end of the market rising to €8.20/kg and higher on occasion.

The ewe trade is solid, with quotes remaining at a range of €3.30/kg to €3.60/kg, with prices ranging anywhere from €3.40/kg to €3.70/kg and rising to as high as €4/kg in infrequent cases for large numbers of top-quality ewes delivered to tight specification.

Northern trade

Base quotes in factories in Northern Ireland have increased by 15p/kg to 25p/kg for hoggets and range from £6.00/kg to £6.15/kg (€6.81/kg to €6.92/kg).

Regular sellers handling large numbers have secured as high as £6.30/kg to £6.40/kg this week, with some agents working hard to prevent sheep from being exported to plants in Ireland for direct slaughter.

Lamb quotes are £6.50/kg on average (€7.38/kg). There is not the same scope to negotiate higher for lambs as there is for hoggets, but there is still potential to achieve an extra 10p/kg to 15p/kg.

Last week’s sheep kill was recorded at just 4,763 head, half the level of the week previous. This is due to a combination of fewer days processing and tighter numbers.

The number of sheep exported south for slaughter at 5,395 head was 1,200 lower, but still exceeded NI kill figures.