A recent YouTube clip showing a Cork man bathing in a 5ft-deep pothole prompted the council to fix it within a few days. Sadly, sheep farmers have not been so lucky.
They feel as if they have been caught down in a hole for the past year but there is no sign of it being filled. I would love to be able to churn out a positive first column for 2013 but, unfortunately, the facts prevent this from happening.
Lamb quotes for today are as much as 70c/kg behind the corresponding day last year. This equates to a loss of between €15-16/lamb in a year that has seen production costs soar due to weather and feed issues.
It also appears that the top carcase weights are back 0.5kg from last year, adding another €2.20 to the loss. It takes 445c/kg, paid to 22.5kg, to secure the magic figure of €100/hd and this has to be the minimum price for any farmer at this stage.
If you are selling top quality lambs that qualify for quality assurance bonuses, a quote of 440-441c/kg is being offered in all bar one of the plants.
As you will see from the table, Moyvalley, on an all-in figure of 440c/kg, ends up on a par with the ICM plants and Kepak Athleague, who are offering 434+6c/kg. Kepak Hacketstown is offering 435+5c/kg and Kildare Chilling is offering a base quote of 430c/kg plus the two 5c/kg bonuses for U-grades and quality assured lambs. Dawn Ballyhaunis remains at the bottom of the pile on an all-in quote of 438c/kg.
Commenting on the trade, IFA sheep chairman, James Murphy, said that even though some finishers were securing prices of up to 450c/kg, there was huge disappointment among sheep farmers that prices had not increased more to cover costs.
There is also a 70c/kg difference between the quotes for today's cull ewes and this time last year. There is no sign of anything close to the quotes of 290-300c/kg being offered back then. Today sees a top quote of 230c/kg from Kildare Chilling. Dawn, the ICM plants and Kepak Hacketstown are all on 220c/kg, while Kepak Athleague is offering 210c/kg.
Bord Bia described the sheep trade as stable following the Christmas period, with supply and demand levels evenly matched in the export and domestic markets.
Meanwhile, there is very little post-Christmas cheer for sheep farmers at the marts either. Neither the level of trade or prices paid have shown much change from the third week of December. This is extremely disappointing for lamb finishers, especially when all the extra costs are factored in.
Difficult weather conditions, poor grass growth, higher meal prices and poorer than normal lamb thrive has left a lot of producers questioning the value of their efforts.
Farmers I spoke to over the holiday period were unhappy, to say the least, that factories were continuing to kill large numbers of lambs imported from Northern Ireland. This is not helping mart or factory prices in the south, with very few finished lambs breaking the €100/hd mark.
Good lambs sold in the past week have only made €38-47 over the weight. Store prices were €30-40 over. The very best cull ewes made up to and slightly over €100/hd.
Only a few of the very best lambs made €50-54 with their weight at Athenry Mart yesterday and the majority sold for €40-49 over. Lighter lots sold for €30-40 with the weight.
The top price in Fermoy Mart was €59 over, achieved by a pen weighing 47kg. Heavy lambs sold for €46-54 over the €/kg and stores made €31-38 over.
Numbers on offer at Kilkenny Mart were small and trade remained sluggish. Butcher lambs made €43-55 over the weight, with a top price of €108 for 25 lambs weighing 53kg. Lots of 45-50kg lambs sold for €36-47 over the €/kg.
Dowra Mart recorded prices of €60-82 each for store lambs, while lighter lots and mountain lambs made €35-55 each. Cull ewes sold for €30-66/hd and a few ewes with lambs at foot made €120-150 each.
There were 1,100 sheep on offer at Carnew Mart but prices eased by €2/lamb. Butcher and factory lambs made €85-103. Stores sold for €65-83. Cull ewes sold for €45-96/hd and in-lamb ewes made €80-150.
Lambs of 45-50kg sold for €75-95 at a small sale in Baltinglass mart. Lambs of 40-45kg sold for €67-78 and store lambs made €50-75 each. Cull ewes sold for €50-80/hd.
Increased demand for heavier cull ewes at Mountbellew Mart resulted in prices of €65-103/hd. Lambs, however, met a sluggish trade and good quality fleshed lots sold for €36-46 over the €/kg. Stores made €30-42 with their weight.