There is a stand-off of sorts developing on lamb prices. Factories are digging in on price and holding base quotes unchanged at a range of €6.65/kg to €6.80/kg.

When quality assurance (QA) payments are added in, starting prices are in the region of €6.85/kg to €6.90/kg.

There is a growing spotlight on the mart trade, with good-quality lowland lambs trending ahead of factory returns, particularly for producers with lower numbers and trading at entry level prices of €6.90/kg.

Group prices range from €6.95/kg to €7.05/kg, with many groups disgruntled that any premium for delivering lambs to demanding specification is being eroded by the factories’ ploy in keeping base quotes low and paying more to regular sellers or those handling large numbers.

Many producers in this category of sellers are weighing up the type of lamb on hand, the mart price in their local mart and the difference in commission rates and factory fees and working from there.

Mart managers continue to report that they are receiving more lambs, but that numbers remain relatively tight.

Reports indicate that prices at the higher end of the market are in the region of €7.10/kg, with specialist finishers and those handling very large numbers securing returns of €7.15/kg to €7.20/kg.

Last week’s sheep kill rebounded upwards, increasing by 5,962 head to 53,292. The increase occurred in lambs, with ewe and ram throughput of 5,205 head unchanged.

A significant differential remains between factory ewe quotes, which range from €2.90/kg to €3.40/kg.

This equates to some €20/ head on a 40kg carcase and highlights the importance of ensuring you are receiving the optimum return.

Even a lower differential of 40c/kg is significant at €16/head on the same 40kg carcase. The live trade is vibrant and provides a good opportunity for farmers struggling to negotiate with factories.

Northern trade

The trade in factories in Northern Ireland has moved upwards again by 10p/kg and ranges on Thursday from £5.70/kg to £5.75/kg. This equates to €6.68/kg to €6.74/kg at Wednesday afternoon’s exchange rate of 85.3p to the euro.


Regular sellers and those handling large numbers are securing £5.80/kg (€6.80/kg) to £5.85/kg, with plants in Northern Ireland keen to compete with agents purchasing sheep to head south.

This is reflected in the number of sheep exported for direct slaughter in southern plants increasing by 1,664 head to 9,175 last week.

Last week’s sheep kill was recorded at 9,713 head, with no change on the previous week.

Prices are also increasing steadily in Britain, with the AHDB’s latest price report showing average prices rising by 11p/kg to £6.43/kg (€7.54/kg).

Reports indicate there is further upward movement this week, which questions prices remaining static in Irish plants.