When describing the new talent show on RTE, Sharon Corr said it was all about the voice. Whether it was the voice of the farm organisations or the farmers themselves back in the final quarter of 2009 which was the trigger for an improvement of lamb prices, the fact is that the sheep trade has been singing a very sweet tune ever since.
This was largely down to tighter supplies due to the reduction in the breeding flock that followed many poor years for sheep farmers.
In any case, we are currently 140c/kg (€32/lamb) ahead of where the lamb quotes were back in the corresponding week of 2009 and 40-50c/kg up on 2010. When compared to last year, quotes are 15-25c/kg up this week. The mart trade has also begun the year positively.
Quotes for today have strengthened by 5-10c/kg to a range of 500-510c/kg plus the bonus. Prices being paid are well in excess of those figures, with farmers successfully securing up to €5.25/kg.
Kildare are slightly ahead when the quality assured 5c/kg bonus is added to their base quote of 500c/kg plus the 6c/kg.
All of the rest have evened up at 500c/kg plus the bonus, with Moyvalley increasing their all-in quote by 10c/kg to 510c/kg.
Most of the factory sources say markets continue to be pretty sluggish and that it is scarce supplies and movement in sterling that is helping the trade.
Another point they were keen to get across to farmers was that lambs were killing out very well and quite a few of them were returning a carcass above the most suitable weight. They were anxious for farmers to keep an eye out for this and to move lambs a little bit quicker.
IFA sheep chairman James Murphy said that lamb supplies continued to be extremely tight with factories freely paying 525c/kg and in some cases up to 530c/kg.
With regard to light lambs, Kepak Athleague are offering 500c/kg for lambs with flesh and killing out around 10kg.
It is a clean sweep for Kildare Chilling as their jump of 10c/kg to 300c/kg for cull ewes also leaves them on top spot in this category. The ICM plants remain unchanged at 290c/kg. A rise of 5c/kg puts Kepak Hacketstown on 285c/kg, with their plant in Athleague remaining on 270c/kg. Dawn Ballyhaunis are quoting 280c/kg while Moyvalley are not quoting.
Again, it's a case of bargaining because plants are paying up to 330c/kg for the ewes.