The factory trade has started 2024 in a brighter tone, with base quotes rising by 10c/kg.

Kildare Chilling tops the quotes table with its base quote of €6.60/kg plus its 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment.

Ballon Meats is quoting an all-in payment of €6.60/kg, while the two Irish Country Meats plants in Camolin and Navan are quoting a base of €6.45/kg plus their 20c/kg QA payment.

Reports indicate plants not quoting are working off a base quote of €6.50/kg to €6.55/kg excluding QA payments.

The upward movement in the trade leaves a high percentage of QA lambs trading from €6.70/kg to €6.75/kg.

Regular sellers and groups are achieving returns ranging from €6.80/kg to upwards of €6.90/kg where conformation bonuses are included. Reports indicate specialist finishers and agents handling very large numbers are knocking on the door of €7/kg.

Reports vary on lamb numbers. Some agents report a slight increase in lamb supplies this week, with the upturn in weather providing some reprieve for drafting lambs. However, this comes after a lean period for lamb supplies, with agents keen to maximise throughput.

Most plants are now paying to 23kg carcase weight, but some are still opening quotes at 22.5kg carcase weight.

It is important to check payment terms before moving lambs, particularly where you think you will have lambs delivering carcase weights above 22.5kg.

The ewe trade remains unchanged in terms of quotes, but there are signs of more life, especially in the live trade.

Ewe quotes continue to vary greatly between plants, both in terms of price and carcase weight limits.

Quotes at the lower end of the market range from €2.60/kg to €2.70/kg.

Kildare Chilling is offering a higher quote of €2.90/kg plus 10c/kg QA to 43kg carcase weight, while Ballon Meats has resumed trading after the Christmas break with a quote of €3.20/kg for good-quality ewes. It is advisable to weigh up your options and consider if the live or dead trade is the best outlet.

Northern trade

Base quotes in plants in Northern Ireland remain unchanged at £5.35/kg for Thursday. This is the equivalent of €6.19/kg at an exchange rate of 86.5p to the euro.

Regular sellers and groups are securing returns of £5.45/kg (€6.30/kg), while those trading at the top end of the market are securing £5.50/kg (€6.36/kg), along with favourable terms for carcase weights.

Competition is reported as strong, with agents purchasing lambs for direct slaughter on behalf of southern plants inserting more life into the market. This is apparent in mart sales and the advice for producers struggling to negotiate returns above the base of £5.35/kg is to consider their options and assess if the live trade is a more lucrative outlet.