Sheep farmers continue to benefit from best-in-a-lifetime markets.
Supply and demand trends have come together to boost prices to unprecedented levels, thanks to buoyant markets for sheepmeat at home and abroad, coinciding with scarcity of supply.
Spring lamb prices continue at very strong levels, as processors competing for scarce supplies are reported to be willing to strike deals with farmers at up to 850 cents/kg, which is an all-time record price.
Hogget prices are edging close to 790 cents/kg, as they are required to boost supplies for the current buoyant market.
With most sheep breeders having moved to later lambing, supplies of spring lamb continue at very low levels, and with the sector having declined overall in recent years, the reduced supply is a crucial factor in current market conditions, and in boosting prices.
Throughput in Irish export meat plants is running 8% below 2020 levels, (down 14% for ewes and rams), and imports of lambs for direct slaughter from Northern Ireland are 31%.
Processors offer up to 790 cents/kg for new season lambs, plus the usual bonus payments for quality.
Farmers say that up to 850 cents/kg is actually being paid.
The shortage of new season lamb is making hoggets more valuable than usual.
But many processors refrained from quoting prices for hoggets this week.
They may have feared an easing in the market whenever demand for sheepmeat connected to Ramadan eases (Ramadan began Tuesday and ends May 12). However, some processors offer up to 760 cents/kg plus the quality bonus for hoggets.
The strong factory trade is mirrored at the marts.
There were 500 head on offer Monday at Kilkenny Mart, where prices were easier by €5-€8/head.
There was a top price of €181 for a pen of 14 spring lambs weighing 55kgs.
A pen of 14 weighing 53 kgs sold for €176, and a pen of ten weighing 51 kgs made €167.
Butchers paid up to €130 over for hoggets. There was a top price of €182 for a pen of ten weighing 52 kgs.