Sheep prices have moved on again this week by another 5c/kg to 10c/kg.

Kildare Chilling continues to set the pace with its base quote of €6.20/kg plus its 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) bonus leaving its suppliers securing minimum returns of €6.30/kg for QA lambs.

This has inserted pressure on competing plants, with higher levels of competition also apparent this week and agents more willing to veer outside of their normal catchment area to secure supplies.

Regular sellers are negotiating higher returns of €6.35/kg to €6.40/kg, with top producer group prices heading for €6.45/kg and higher for U grading lambs or the equivalent of this price when allowances on transport costs are taken into account.

More sellers are also securing returns of 22kg carcase weight over the last week.

This is leaving a significant differential between prices at the top end of the market and at entry level.

Base quotes are starting at €6.00/kg, but there are no lambs moving at this level, even non-QA lambs.

Starting prices for individual sellers with lower negotiating power are typically €6.15/kg to €6.20/kg, with some sellers opting to show lambs in marts where they are having difficulty in securing a satisfactory price.

The increase in last week’s price had the desired effect in attracting higher numbers forward, with the Department of Agriculture recording throughput of 61,723 head.

This is an increase of 2,752 head on the previous week and includes 9,151 ewes and rams.

Quotes for ewes are unchanged, with most plants quoting €3.00/kg and Ballon Meats remaining out in front on €3.30/kg.

NI and British trade

The trade in Northern Ireland (NI) has also firmed, with sellers pushing returns to £4.95/kg to £5.00/kg or the equivalent of €5.74/kg to €5.86/kg at 85.3p to the euro.

Sellers trading at the top of the market are pushing returns above £5/kg, with prices in mart sales also strengthening and forcing factories to compete or risk losing higher numbers travelling south.

The number of sheep exported south for direct slaughter last week increased by 481 head to 8,079.

The trade in Britain continues to regain ground lost in recent weeks. The AHDB’s standard quality quotation (SQQ) liveweight price for lambs increased by 3p/kg to 5p/kg this week to average in the region of £2.35/kg (€2.75/kg), while the average deadweight prices for last week climbed back over £5/kg. Top prices are reported at £5.10/kg to £5.15/kg (€5.97/kg to €6.03/kg) this week.