Farm Ireland

Monday 24 July 2017

'Factory-rage' rises as prices fall again

Joe Healy

I read recently that the average office worker suffers "desk-rage" twice a day for various reasons ranging from computer crashes to customer rudeness.

Sheep farmers have suffered from "factory-rage" quite regularly recently due to the continued downward pressure processors are exerting on lamb prices.

Farmers are particularly angry with two sister plants who are seen to be worst transgressors all year.

The clear feeling amongst farmers, rightly or wrongly, is that those two plants pull the quotes one week and then the rest of the plants follow suit the following week to join them and the process is repeated fortnightly.

Selling lambs at any of today's quotes is a loss-making exercise and unless the farmer can bargain for more, he is not getting the lamb to achieve the €100 mark.

If the lamb grades R and is sold at the lower quotes of 450c/kg, it is not even grossing €96/hd.

All of the quotes have fallen by between 10-20c/kg since this day week. The Kepak plants have the smallest reduction but their 10c/kg drop leaves them back at a base of 460c/kg plus the bonus, with Hacketstown's quote being for yesterday only.

A 15c/kg fall leaves Moyvalley on an all-in figure of 460c/kg and Dawn Ballyhaunis on 455c/kg plus 6c/kg. Kildare Chilling were not quoting for today when contacted yesterday morning, while the biggest reduction of 20c/kg took place in the ICM plants.

This dropped them to a low base of 450c/kg plus the bonus.

All sellers need to bargain as prices of 470-475c/kg are being negotiated this week.

Farmers, if they can afford to, also need to try and get their lambs up to the maximum carcass weight to get full value. Figures below from Bord Bia show average carcass weights for this year to be down 1kg to 19.54kg.

Quotes for cull ewes vary from 180-190c/kg with many farmers getting €2/kg and over.

IFA sheep chairman James Murphy said sheep farmers were both frustrated and angry with the factories and there was strong resistance to prices tha had fallen below the cost of production.

According to Bord Bia, sheep supplies to Irish processors so far this year stand at 1.53million, almost 170,000/hd more than this time last year.

According to figures from the Department of Agriculture, average carcass weights of 19.54kg for the year to date were back by more than 1kg when compared to 20.57kg for the same period in 2012.

Trade in Britain remained steady throughout the week with the liveweight lamb prices up 1p/kg on the previous week. By the weekend, new season lamb at live markets across England and Wales was making the equivalent of around €4.80/kg

In France the market slowed down considerably since the bank holiday on Thursday, August 15.

Prices for Irish lamb were between €4.50/kg and €4.70/kg. With the holiday season coming to an end this week, the trade is expected to pick up.


Meanwhile, store lambs met the best trade at marts during the past week, while finished lamb prices were back €1-3/hd. Trade was also tougher for breeding ewes, especially ewe hoggets, but cull ewes were steady.

At Athenry yesterday, lambs sold for €45-57 over the €/kg and cull ewes sold for €60-100/hd.

At a special sale of Texel and Hiltex breeding sheep in Ballinrobe Mart on Friday Texel-cross hoggets sold for €135-175 and Hiltex hoggets sold for €115-150.

Lowland Texel-cross ewe lambs made a top price of €122/hd and averaged €110/hd. Hiltex ewe lambs topped out at €108 and averaged €100. In general, prices were €20-25/hd higher than last year.

Tullow had over 2,500 head on offer, with fleshed lambs selling for €95-112/hd. Forward stores sold for €80-92/hd and lighter stores made €60-78/hd. Cull ewes made €35-98 but ewe hogget prices were easier at €125-150.

Dowra Mart had 3,600 sheep on offer and factory lambs made €80-102. Good forward store lambs sold for €65-85 and ewe lambs made up to €96/hd. Strong mountain store lambs sold for €45-65 but lighter lambs were hardest sold at €30-45 each.

Store lambs in Ballymote made €30-42 over their weight and factory and butcher lambs sold for €40-56 with the €/kg.

Baltinglass had 2,200 sheep on offer and store lambs improved by €1-3/hd. The 45-55kg lots made €85-105 and 40-45kg lots sold for €70-85. Ewe lambs sold for €85-117.

Store lambs weighing 28-38kg made 450-80. Cull ewes sold for €40-83/hd.

Hogget ewe prices fell by €5-12/hd to €100-145/hd.

Mountbellew had its biggest largest sale of the year and reported stronger trade for all types but a healthier demand in in particular for store lambs this week.

Exporters were active for quality U grade lambs.

Ewe lambs made up to €60 over the weight and wether lambs sold for €43-58 over.

Stores made €60-84/hd. Cull ewes sold for €50-95.

The best ewe hoggets hit a high of €168/hd but lighter lots sold for €105/hd and up.

Irish Independent