The June bank holiday weekend traditionally was a date of significant concern in the sheep farming calendar, as it generally marked a period of significant price pressure across EU markets.

A change in the kill pattern and favourable market dynamics across Europe have thankfully meant that, for the last two seasons, there has not been the same negative pressure on the trade.

Prices are holding solid, with base quotes unchanged and ranging from €7.95/kg to €8.10/kg.

Prices at the lower end of the market range from €8.00/kg for non-quality assured (QA) lambs, rising to €8.10/kg to €8.20/kg for QA lambs marketed in small numbers from producers trading individually.

Those selling through groups and with greater negotiating power are securing returns of €8.25/kg to €8.30/kg, while reports indicate there is 5c/kg to 10c/kg higher being secured by agents or those with large batches of lambs.

Last week’s kill was recorded at 54,355 head, representing an increase of 5,686 on the previous week. This is broadly in line with the corresponding week in 2021 where throughput was recorded at 52,729 head.

Kill profile

However, the kill profile is markedly different, with lamb throughput of 37,681 head running 5,868 lower year on year.

The ewe and ram kill of 5,812 head is similar, while hogget throughput of 10,821 is 7,699 head higher and contributing to in excess of 180,000 more hoggets slaughtered in 2022.

Hogget quotes are unchanged, but there is a big differential in prices offered to producers, depending on negotiating power.

Opening quotes are anywhere from €7.00/kg to €7.20/kg, but there are still specialist producers securing as high as €7.30/kg to €7.50/kg.

Cull ewes are firm, with quotes in the region of €3.80/kg to €4.00/kg and top prices rising to €4.10/kg to €4.20/kg.

The mart continues to offer the best outlet for heavy ewes which may exceed paid carcase weight limits ranging from 40kg to 46kg.

Producers should continue to weigh up the best outlet.

Trade round-up

Prices in Britain increased by 14p/kg last week to £6.84/kg (€8.02/kg) according to the Livestock and Meat Commission.

Upward momentum has carried forward to this week, with top prices now in the region of £7.00/kg (€8.21/kg).

Supplies in Northern Ireland are also reported as being tighter this week. Quotes have increased by 15p/kg to £6.60/kg (€7.74/kg).

Reports indicate that regular sellers and agents purchasing in mart sales are securing 10p/kg to 20p/kg above quoted prices to ward off active interest from buyers purchasing lambs for direct slaughter in southern plants.

Numbers exported south last week were recorded at 4,146 head, slightly over 200 sheep above the previous week.

Prices in other European markets such as France (€8.06/kg - 28 May) and Spain (€6.73/kg) are running 50c/kg to 70c/kg higher than in 2021.