Department of Agriculture figures show last week’s throughput recorded at a total of 39,521 head, a fall of 8,301 on the previous week.

Spring lamb throughput increased to 8,317 head from just over 5,000 in the previous week, but this failed to compensate for hogget throughput falling by about 10,000 head to 25,217.

This week’s throughput is recording a similar trend, with some plants reporting an increase in the number of spring lambs coming on stream at the start of the week, which have since reduced, while hogget throughput continues to fall off and quality becomes even more variable.

This tightening in supply and a steadying in demand in export markets has helped steady prices, after factories reduced quotes last week by 25c/kg to 40c/kg.

Base quotes for spring lambs range from €7.50/kg to €7.70/kg, with a large percentage of lambs trading in the region of €7.65/kg to €7.80/kg for quality assured (QA) lamb.

Regular sellers and groups are, in cases, securing 5c/kg to 10c/kg extra by means of bonus payments or allowances on transport costs.

Sellers handling small numbers are securing returns of €7.10/kg to €7.20/kg for QA hoggets, with groups securing an extra 10c/kg by means of producer bonuses.

Reports also indicate that suppliers handling large numbers continue to secure well above the quoted prices, with many of these deals built on a supply pattern spanning back a number of months.

There is a wide differential in the ewe trade, with some plants reducing quotes to €3.00/kg, while others are staying solid with a quote of €3.20/kg to €3.30/kg and paying 10c/kg to 20c/kg higher in deals involving large numbers or for light ewes.

IFA sheep chair Sean Dennehy says prices have started to strengthen on the back of buying for the end of Ramadan.

“Factories offered €7.50/kg for hoggets on Wednesday and €8.00/kg for lamb, with higher prices for larger lots and groups,” he said.

“Factory agents are more active in marts this week, highlighting the demand for sheepmeat, and this must be reflected in prices paid to farmers. Farmers should dig in and sell hard.”

NI prices

Meanwhile, factories in the North are attempting to pull prices sharply, with quotes falling by 40p/kg to 60p/kg on last week.

Lambs are quoted at £6.10/kg (€7.01/kg), but £6.20/kg to £6.30/kg (€7.12/kg to €7.24/kg) is being paid to secure deals.

Likewise, hoggets are quoted at £5.70/kg (€6.55/kg), but up to £6.00/kg (€6.89/kg) and higher is being paid for choice lots.