After a slow start to the week due to Monday’s bank holiday, processing demand for fat lambs has seen a marked upturn midweek.
Supplies of slaughter-fit lambs are generally tight across the country and as such, factory agents are much more active around the live ring as they look to source additional numbers to fill order books.
Such is the demand for stock at present, Irish processors have stepped up their efforts in sourcing lambs north of the border.
This has left abattoirs in Northern Ireland with little option but to raise base quotes as well as moving to paying on a higher carcase limit.
The added bite injected to the northern mart trade has generally raised lamb prices by £2 to £4 (€2.38 to €4.76) per head this week, with £105 to £115 (€125 to €137) on offer for slaughter-fit types.
Northern plants have responded and raised base quotes to 505p/kg (€6.33/kg inc VAT), as well as lifting the payable carcase weight limit from 21kg to 22kg this week.
The number of NI sheep shipped south for processing last week rose by over 1,300 head to 9,604, the highest weekly import figure for four weeks.
Although processors are hungry for numbers, base quotes on quality assured lambs are unchanged at €6.20/kg to €6.30/kg.
However, the reality is that no lambs are moving at the outlined price quotes. If anything, the lower base quote is being used to cap prices paid to producer groups once supply bonuses are factored in.
Most reports indicate that slaughter-fit lambs are moving off farm from €6.40/kg to €6.50/kg, although by mid-week, deals of €6.55 to €6.60/kg were more common for finishers handling larger numbers.
At the top end of the market, there were isolated reports of €6.70/kg offered to a select number of specialist finishers trading close to 200 lambs per consignment.
The cull ewe trade is static with base quotes generally opening on €3.00/kg. Where there is more life in the trade, ewes are moving at €3.20/kg to €3.30/kg.
The live ring is ultimately providing a stronger outlet for heavy fleshed ewes, particularly for farmers with limited negotiating power.
In Britain, factory prices are also pushing on to higher price levels with deadweight prices last week recording a 1.6p/kg increase to 529.9p/kg (€6.65/kg). Mart sales held early this week report an average 242.8p/kg (€2.89/kg), up 7p/kg on the week.