Factories: Numbers don't add up as lamb prices start to level off
At first glance, the sheep trade continues to push on well, with Kepak Athleague yesterday raising their quote by 15c/kg to €5.20+ 15c/kg QA.
While the headline figure might look good, the reality is Kepak had to add that 15c/kg to their price just to keep up with the opposition, all of whom were at that level a week ago.
Dawn Ballyhaunis and the ICMs decided to leave their official quotes unchanged yesterday, while Kildare Chilling were not in a position to quote.
So, in effect, all the main plants are on €5.20/kg plus bonuses - Kildare, while not officially quoting would probably find it impossible to dip below that price and hope to source meaningful supplies.
Last week it was the two ICMs who couldn't make up their minds where they wanted to pitch their price.
In my experience, factories only become reluctant to discuss pricing with the media either when supplies are strong or when they are tight - in each case, they don't want to overcook the price.
Despite factories claiming supplies are strong, mart numbers are reported as being far from so.
Factories will argue that when the market becomes difficult at the retail side, they sometimes can't quote for sheep because they don't know what the margin might be. True, but that never seems to stop them buying. Unlike the farmer, who will buy in hope, factories buy because they know they can make the sums add up.
ICSA's newly elected sheep chair, Sean McNamara, tells me that €5.55-5.65/kg is where it's at for lambs, with the IFA's Sean Dennehy claiming €5.70/kg is the top.
On cull ewes, Dawn pulled their price by 10c/kg yesterday to €2.60/kg.
All other plants continue on €2.70/kg.
Michael Harty of Roscrea and Nenagh marts told me it is noticeable at his sales that numbers are declining.
In certain parts of the country, like north Tipperary, as the responsibility for the farm is being passed from one generation to the next, the decision often made by the younger man or woman is to cull the sheep side entirely and concentrate on expanding the dairy enterprise.
This is a greater loss than is appreciated. Generations of knowledge is disappearing from these areas as the diversity of farming narrows.
It is not the fault of the farming community: every generation has to follow the money.
But will we end up with the only meaningful sheep enterprises restricted to the west and north west, as dairy continues to expand?
Numbers were reported as strong, with prices better by €2-3/hd. Top price went to a batch of 59kg hoggets who saw €135.50/hd, with those heavier lambs generally starting around €126/hd. 45-49kg lambs sold from €119-130/hd, with 40-44kg making €103-122/hd. 35kg+ stores sold from €98-113/hd, while lighter types made €80-100/hd. Cull ewes made €67-138/hd. Among the breeding ewes, those in lamb sold from €110-165/hd, while ewes with doubles at foot made €190-240/hd, with single ewes and lambs making €150-190/hd.
Michael Harty also reported a good trade with prices improved, but said numbers were "noticeably" back. Prices for lamb saw 55kg getting the top call at €140/hd, with a majority selling around the €125-130/hd mark. Cull ewes made €112-115/hd.
The sale was smaller than last time but prices improved, with the top call per kg going to 47.5kg at €125. 50-60kg lambs sold from €120-133/hd, with 40-50kg lambs making €95-125/hd. Store types made €60-95/hd. Cast ewes saw a top of €128/hd while scanned in-lamb ewes sold from €120-175/hd.
Nelius McAuliffe reckons the trade is in a very good place for the time of year, after "a very good sale, a full clearance and great prices across the board". Sample prices included 50kg butchers' lambs that made up to €128 with 43kg lambs making €120/hd while 40-46kg made €110-117/hd. Among the stores there were 36kg at €100/hd with various 30kg lots who sold from €75-78/hd. Scanned in-lamb ewes made €122-150/hd.
Wilfred Moffitt was also pleased to see how the trade has developed, saying: "It's great to see men getting a turn out of them." However, numbers were restricted due to a heavy fall of snow just before last week's sale. That said, there was nothing wrong with prices that saw 46-48kg lambs making €123-134/hd. On the store side 30kg horned lambs sold from €80-90/hd, with that €90/hd going to the Suffolks.
Numbers were similar to the previous week but as with everywhere else last week, there was no shortage of customers. Store lambs sold from €86-125/hd with ewe lambs making up to €120/hd. Fat ewes sold from €78-115/hd.
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