Factory quotes for lamb fell yesterday by between 10-30c/kg, while the quotes offered for cull ewes by the main processors were either up 5c/kg or down 10c/kg.
On the lamb side, the ICM group and Dawn Ballyhaunis are now all on €5.20+10c/kg quality assurance - that's a drop of 20c and 30c/kg respectively.
Kildare Chilling is paying 20c/kg less for lambs at €5.30+10c/kg QA, with Kepak Athleague easier by 10c/kg at €5.25/kg+15c/kg QA.
On the cull ewe side, the two ICM plants drop their quote by 10c/kg to €2.50/kg. Kildare remain unchanged on €2.50+10c/kg QA, while Kepak Athleague actually put up their quote yesterday by 5c/kg to €2.65/kg. Dawn did not offer a quote yesterday.
An industry source told me that with the demand created by the Eid al Adha festival now largely satisfied, the "trade is looking difficult from Wednesday on because big numbers of UK sheep are starting to hit our French and German markets."
Sean McNamara of ICSA is of the opinion that mart prices may not be too badly hit even if the factories pull prices hard. The reason? He is seeing more cattlemen turning up at marts to buy store lambs.
"These lads have cattle or cull cows gone to the factory and are buying store lambs now to eat the grass because they tell me store cattle are too dear."
Will they stick at the sheep?
"They'd be hoping to turn them in the autumn and get back into cattle for the winter."
He expects the store trade to remain strong, commenting that if the price of lambs was to come back in the factories with a knock-on effect at the marts, "the store men will take the factory men out for them".
The IFA's Sean Dennehy believes that the trade remains steady with prices for lambs ranging from €5.60-5.70/kg and up to 20c/kg above this when bonuses are added in for producer groups.
Mr Dennehy also noted that some agents were suggesting to him that supplies might actually begin to tighten.
With some plants reported to be working extra hours and, in some cases, extra days in recent weeks to fill orders connected to the Eid al Adha festival, the national kill looks decidedly healthy, leading one to wonder about how many fit sheep are left in the system short term.
The total sheep kill in the Republic up to July 19 stood at 1,509,592 as against 1,430,860 for the same period in 2019.
Department of Agriculture figures show a total of 192,885 sheep were slaughtered at export plants in the first three weeks of July.
Of that figure, 166,681 were lambs, compared to 152,500 in the same three weeks of July 2019.
If numbers do tighten, will some of that increasing supply of UK lamb mentioned above by an industry source make its way into Northern Ireland?
And will the thorny question of just where all those Northern sheep who travel South originate from raise its head again?
In short, therefore, the industry appears to be gearing itself to pay less in the coming weeks, yet with big numbers already processed and those buyers or stores still keen, there appears to be plenty to play for yet on the prices front.
Excellent demand saw the 3,200 sheep on offer move very well with butcher type lambs over 50kgs selling from €116-122/hd. 45-49kgs made from €108-118/hd, with 40-44kgs seeing €96-112/hd, while 35-39kgs averaged from €83-101/hd; lighter lots sold from €65-84/hd. Ewe lambs made from €95-133/hd, with breeding ewes ranging from €140-190/hd. Heavy cull ewes sold from €120-137/hd.
Prices for lambs here ranged from €70/hd for store types to €120/hd for the heavier butcher type. Sample prices included 32-36kgs at €85-93/hd, 37-38kgs at €92-93/hd, and 39kgs at €100/hd with 45kgs making €113/hd.
Numbers here yesterday were up a couple of hundred to around the 2,000 mark with the trade reported to have held. Sample prices among the lambs included 32-34kgs at €72-84/hd, 41-42kgs at €102-110/hd, 44-45kgs sold from €104-116/hd, while 53-55kgs made from €129-133/hd.
Acting manager Gerry Linnane noted a continuation of recent strong numbers yesterday with lambs seeing 49kgs topping the price table at €135/hd. Other prices included 51kgs at €120-132/hd, 45kgs at €112 and 35-40kgs €88-102/hd. Cull ewes in general sold from €80-129/hd.
George Candler reported a bigger sale with 700 on offer. Among the lambs, top call went to a batch of 21 lambs at 48kgs that sold for €123/hd. Other prices of note among the lambs included 50kgs selling from €120-121/hd, 47kgs making from €113-117/hd with 46kgs averaging €110-116/hd. On the store side, 37kgs made from€75-87/hd, 36kgs made €88/hd with 41kgs varying from €96-98/hd. Cull ewes sold for €70-139/hd.
A full yard of sheep saw an almost complete clearance with prices reported as being improved by around €1-3/hd. In detail, 30-35kg lambs from €75-114/hd, with 35-40kgs seeing €78-108/hd, and 40-45kgs made from €104-115/hd.