The sheep trade at the start of this week has moved up a gear, with factories showing an increased appetite for hoggets as prices push on.

Base prices in most cases have moved up 10c/kg since the beginning of last week and this increase has seen positive moves forward for those in producer groups, and those in general trading at the higher end of the market.

Base prices on offer from meat processing plants currently stand at €6.50/kg up to €6.70/kg, with quality assurance (QA) bonuses ranging from 10-15c/kg on top of that.

After a fortnight of cuts in prices, factories are making moves to reverse these cuts – but not to any great lengths just yet anyway – with prices seen at the turn of the year into the first half of January still a bit away yet.

The one positive, since the start of the last week, is that the trade had steadied up and is now strengthening at the start of this week.

Those operating at the higher end of the market are securing prices anywhere from €6.90/kg up to €7.00/kg – with reports indicating €7.10/kg has also been secured for large batches of hoggets.

Factories are continuing to penalise hoggets killing out over 25kg; however, even prices being offered for these hoggets are on the increase, with Kildare Chilling offering up to €150/head for these heavy hoggets – which is €5/head more than last week.

The ewe trade continues to show no signs of any movement, with €3.20-3.50/kg the general run of prices.

‘Prices pushing €7.10/kg for larger lots’

The newly elected sheep chair of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Kevin Comiskey, said that strong demand from the food service sector and tight supplies have moved hogget prices on 10c/kg.

He said most hoggets are now making €7.00/kg, with some deals of €7.10/kg on the cards, particularly for larger lots. Cull ewes are making €3.30-3.50/kg.

Kevin added that severe sanctions by factories for overweight lambs are unnecessary and must be revisited as domestic demand strengthens and staffing issues ease at processing level.