Factory agents have been on the lookout for hoggets and lambs over the weekend and are exhibiting a keen appetite to start building supplies for the Ramadan festival, which starts on Tuesday 13 April.

This appetite is in sharp contrast to the usual lull in demand post-Easter, with the trade actually firming since the middle of last week.

Factories are particularly anxious to get numbers on hand on Tuesday to get this week’s kill started in a strong manner.

Reports indicate hogget supplies have tightened significantly, while there is also evidence of positive retail performance for the Easter trade preventing any overhang in the market.

Hogget prices range in the main from €7.30/kg to €7.50/kg, with select deals now reported above this level while other sellers are also negotiating with transport costs covered.

Spring lambs

While hoggets continue to make up the largest part of the kill, factories are keen to get their hands on whatever supplies they can and as such are also active for spring lambs. Prices range in the main from €7.80/kg to €8.10/kg, with isolated reports of prices above this level.

The strength in demand is reflected in Kildare Chilling’s quote to producers on Monday morning.

The factory has increased its spring lamb quote by 20c/kg to a base of €7.90/kg plus 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment while its hogget quote has increased by 30c/kg to a base of €7.30/kg plus 10c/kg QA.

Northern demand

The trade in Northern Ireland is experiencing similar performance. Hoggets were trading from £6.20/kg to £6.40/kg or the equivalent of €7.31/kg to €7.51/kg at Monday afternoon’s slightly stronger exchange rate of 84.8p to the euro.

Spring lambs, meanwhile, are trading from £6.70/kg to £6.90/kg (€7.90/kg to €8.13/kg) and, as is the case in the Republic, lambs traded in marts and purchased by butchers and wholesalers are in many cases exceeding the factory price.

Ewe trade

The ewe trade is solid but a big variation exists between the factory and mart trade for heavy fleshed ewes.

Factory quotes range from €3.00/kg to €3.30/kg, with top prices ranging from €3.30/kg to €3.50/kg.

Factories are keen for lighter-carcase ewes, with some plants quoting 20c/kg higher for ewes weighing less than 35kg.

Sellers should also take note of upper paid carcase weight limits of 40kg to 45kg. At a price of €3.40/kg, this puts the maximum value of heavy-carcase ewes at €136 to €153.

Producers with large-framed heavy ewes should weigh up if the factory or the mart is the best outlet for these ewes, with ewes weighing 90kg and upwards ranging in price from €135 to €165 on average and as high as €170 to €180 in isolated cases for exceptional-quality ewes.