Even though we are now officially on the run in to Christmas, there is little in the way of festive cheer for sheep farmers as far as the lamb trade is concerned.
Finishers with lambs to sell had hoped for a boost to the trade at this stage or, at the very least, some optimism for the coming weeks. However optimism was difficult to find among the factory agents I spoke to yesterday. While four of the factories held firm on their quotes this week, three plants cut their quotes by 5c/kg.
The good news first. Moyvalley remains on its all-in quote of 440c/kg. Both plants in the west continue to offer 434c/kg plus the bonus. Even though its quote was for yesterday only, Kepak Hacketstown remained on its quote of 435c/kg plus 5c/kg. On the flip side, you will see from the table that Kildare Chilling and the two ICM plants have pulled their base quotes by 5c/kg to 430c/kg plus the bonus and, in Kildare's case, the extra bonus for Quality Assured lambs.
IFA sheep committee chairman James Murphy said farmers were expecting an improvement to the trade, in line with increased demand in the lead up to Christmas. He said the domestic market was already undertaking strong promotions. However, he added that some farmers were bargaining successfully for prices of up to 450c/kg for their animals.
Kildare Chilling is the clear leader for cull ewe quotes and is very keen to get supplies. I've heard that if a farmer with lambs to sell can also put together a number of cull ewes, it strengthens his hand in not only getting a good price for his ewes, but also increases his bargaining power for his lambs.
For the third week in a row the factory has increased it cull ewe offer by 10c/kg. This sees it now quoting 230c/kg, 10c/kg ahead of the ICM factories and Kepak Hacketstown and Dawn Ballyhaunis, their nearest rivals all on 200c/kg.
Kepak Athleague is offering 190c/kg, which is an increase of 10c/kg from this day week.
To date, sheep supplies are running almost 11pc higher compared to last year's levels.
Trade across the UK recovered slightly in response to some decrease of supplies. By the weekend, new season lambs at live markets across Britain were making the equivalent of around €4.40/kg including VAT.
In France, trade eased in response to some slowdown in demand. This weakened demand for Irish grade 1 Spring lamb during the week, with Irish prices by the end of the week up to €4.43/kg inclusive of VAT. Trade should improve over the coming weeks though, as consumers stock up for the Christmas period.
Meanwhile, it was a mixed week at the sheep marts, with some mart managers reporting an improvement to the trade but more of the opinion that prices were lower. Heavy lambs generally sold for €45-55 with their weight. Factory types moved at €40-50 with the €/kg, while stores sold for €30-40 over. The majority of fat cull ewes sold for €80-95, with a few ewes making up to and over €100/hd.
Fermoy Mart had the best of the trade yesterday, with a top price of €58 over the weight. In general good lambs made €47-55 with the weight.
Prices of €40-49 over the €/kg bought most of the finished lambs at Athenry Mart. Lighter lots sold for €30-38 over. Trade was steady in Kilkenny, where butcher types sold for €45-52 over the €/kg. Factory lambs sold for €40-44 with their weight. Stores made €31-41 over.
Carnew Mart had a big sale of 2,500 sheep but prices fell by €2-5/hd. Butcher and factory lambs sold for €87-97 each. Stores sold for €50-77. Cull ewes made €35-103/hd.
The sheep trade improved at Dowra Mart, with the best of the breeding ewes on offer selling for €75-105 each. Good store lambs made €60-80 each, while lighter stores made €35-55/hd. Cull ewes for feeding sold for €26-48 and heavier ewes sold for €50-90 each.
Lamb prices at Mountbellew Mart improved slightly, with lambs over 50kg selling for up to €52 over the weight and 45-50kg types selling for €95. Stores sold for €50-80. Cull ewes sold for €60-90.
At Baltinglass Mart, 45-50kg lambs sold for €42-45 with their weight and 40-45kg lots made €30-40 over the €/kg. Ewe lambs made up to €55 over. Cull ewes sold for €45-85 and breeding ewes sold for €100-125/hd.
The best of the cull ewes on offer at Tuam Mart made up to €101/hd. Quality lambs over 50kg sold for €100-110 and lambs of 45-50kg topped out at €2.21/kg.
Lamb prices increased by €5/hd at Enniscorthy Mart. Butcher lambs sold for €46-55 with their weight. Factory types made €45-50 over.