Signs of lighter trade but prices holding firm
While one or two plants would have you believe that the week ahead for the lamb trade looks as dodgy as Henry Shefflin's knee, the general feeling is one of stability.
And while the result at Croke Park was a reversal of last year's outcome, the results from the table of sheep quotes, right, are very much a draw when compared to last week's quotes. All the figures are more or less the same and actual prices paid around the country are similar to seven days ago.
Kepak Hacketstown remains on a base of 435c/kg plus the bonus. This leaves them the leading plant, with Kildare Chilling's quote 430c/kg plus 6c/kg along with the quality assurance bonus payment of 5c/kg (for yesterday only). Elsewhere, the only differences are with Dawn Ballyhaunis who are not quoting for today. Both ICM plants and Kepak Athleague are offering 430c/kg plus the bonus while Moyvalley meats continue to quote an all-in 430c/kg. IFA's James Murphy said that factories are actively looking for lambs, with 450c/kg widely available. He added that the light lamb trade is just beginning and that plants were paying €4-plus bonuses.
The sheep trade eased slightly throughout the past week according to Bord Bia, as both domestic and export demand continue to struggle. Despite lower weekly lamb supplies, base quotes for lambs eased and were making in the region of 435c/kg by the end of the week. Quotes for cull ewes were in the range of 240c/kg, with more reportedly available. Up to the end of August, sheep supplies are back by almost 227,200 or almost 15pc on last year's levels at 1.33 million head.
In the UK, lamb supplies tailed off as the week progressed. However, taking into account the strengthening sterling against the euro, the average new season SQQ price in England and Wales was back by just 4c/kg this week to 451c/kg including VAT.
In France, quotes for Grade 1 Irish spring lamb delivered to Paris also eased as the week progressed and finished up the week making 445-450c/kg including VAT. However, demand is expected to pick up over the coming weeks as the Ramadan period comes to an end combined with the end of the traditional holiday period.
This is a key time of the year for most of our sheep farmers as they make critical decisions for the breeding season and plan their figures for next year's crop.
With this in mind, Teagasc have organised a very important sheep event at Athenry mart next Monday, September 13. Speakers from Bord Bia, as well as Teagasc, will cover key areas such as ewe selection, breeds, husbandry and marketing. With a renewed enthusiasm evident in the sheep industry, I think it is vital that farmers build on this and make use of these types of events to educate themselves on how to maximise the potential of their own operations.