While last week’s sheep kill figure increased by 3,853 head on the previous week, throughput remained at a very low level for the time of year at just 38,565 head.

The kill figures for the last three weeks have totalled over 55,000 head lower than the corresponding weeks in 2023 and contributed majorly to total throughput running almost 98,000 lower year on year.

The tightness in supplies is preventing factories from gaining a real foothold in exerting downward pressure on the trade.

Factory agents are painting a bleaker picture in negotiations, but base quotes for Thursday are steady to slightly back on last week.

Hoggets continue to dominate throughput. The two Irish Country Meats (ICM) plants in Camolin and Navan are quoting a base of €9/kg plus their 20c/kg quality assurance (QA) payment for hoggets, while Kildare Chilling has recommenced quoting for hoggets at a base of €9/kg plus 10c/kg QA payment.

Producers with lower negotiating power are securing returns ranging from €9.20/kg to €9.30/kg, while specialist finishers handling large numbers and dealing closely with plants are securing returns ranging from €9.40/kg to upwards of €9.50/kg.

Plants are trying to ease prices, but at the same time are heavily reliant on this supply source.

The two ICM plants retain their base of €9.30/kg plus 20c/kg QA for lambs, with Ballon Meats’ all-in quote of €9.50/kg on a similar level.

It shades Kildare’s base quote of €9.30/kg by merit of a 10c/kg lower QA payment.

Producers with strong negotiating power and groups are securing returns ranging from €9.55/kg to €9.65/kg, with some prices exceeding this range with conformation bonuses.

Ewe trade

The ewe trade is solid, with throughput in factories running over 1,900 head lower.

This is partly due to continued significant numbers being exported live and also from ewes being processed in local authority-approved plants.

The number of ewes appearing in the mart trade paints a different picture of higher numbers of ewes being culled, but mart managers continue to report more and more sellers opting to sell ewes live.

Base quotes are unchanged at in the region of €4.10/kg to €4.20/kg. There is scope to secure 10c/kg extra for good-quality ewes, while top prices paid to those handling large numbers are in the region of €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg-plus.

Quotes in Northern Ireland have reduced by 20p/kg to 30p/kg. Hoggets range from £7.20/kg to £7.30/kg (€8.42/kg to €8.53/kg), with lambs from £7.70/kg to £7.80/kg (€9/kg to €9.12/kg).

Groups and regular sellers are securing 10p/kg to 20p/kg above base quotes.

Competition from agents purchasing sheep for direct slaughter in Ireland eased last week, with 1,647 sheep crossing the border, down 3,500.