With Easter trading done and dusted, factories have quickly turned their attention to the Islamic religious festival of Ramadan, which ends on 9 April.

Some plants tried to reduce quotes or top prices paid earlier in the week, but with numbers much tighter than last week, agents have had to abandon this stance.

Base quotes in Kildare Chilling have increased by 10c/kg on last week and now lie on €8.70/kg plus the plant’s 10c/kg quality assurance bonus.

Groups and regular sellers are trading in the region of €8.90/kg to €9/kg, with top prices rising upwards of €9/kg with sellers handling large numbers in the driving seat again this week.

Factories have been quiet in the spring lamb trade up to now, with only the two Irish Country Meats plants active.

With hoggets tight, factories are now turning to spring lambs to supplement numbers.

Kildare Chilling has started quoting for lambs with a base of €9.20/kg plus 10c/kg QA payment.

The two ICM plants have increased their quotes by 20c/kg to €9.20/kg plus 20c/kg QA, with these plants offering a 0.5kg higher carcase weight payment.

Numbers of spring lambs handled by factories remain small. Last week’s sheep kill data shows throughput of 59,043 head including just 764 lambs. This compared with in excess of 1,700 head for the corresponding week in 2023.

It reflects the continued move away from early lamb production and challenging conditions curtailing performance and delaying drafting.

Firm ewe trade

The number of cull ewes traded direct to the factory remains steady, with just 4,538 ewes and rams handled last week.

Cull ewe quotes increased last week by 10c/kg to 20c/kg, leaving the main export-orientated plants working off €3.70/kg to €3.80/kg for ewes.

Plants or abattoirs specialising in the ewe trade continue to pay upwards of €4/kg, with Ballon Meats offering such an opening quote for good-quality ewes.

Producers should clarify paid weight limits for heavy ewes, with these ranging from 43kg to 46kg. Reports indicate there may be some scope for sellers to negotiate higher for large batches.

The mart trade remains vibrant for good-quality ewes and continues to provide a strong alternative outlet, with buyers purchasing ewes for exporting live and for niche demand keen for sheep in recent days.

Northern trade

The trade in Northern Ireland also remains unchanged, despite factories chancing their arm and reducing hogget quotes by 10p/kg last week.

Base quotes are in the region of £6.90/kg or the equivalent of €8.06/kg at an exchange rate of 85.6p to the euro. A high percentage of hoggets continue to trade upwards of £7/kg (€8.18/kg), with prices at the top 10p/kg to 15p/kg higher.