Lamb prices break the magical €5/kg barrier


Lamb in Dowra Mart. Photo Brian Farrell
Lamb in Dowra Mart. Photo Brian Farrell
File photo: Getty Images
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Before getting into the nitty gritty of factory prices, a word about an issue that has periodically dogged relations between farmers and factories.

It's not the current spat between the vets and the Department which has affected throughput in some plants - it's the issue of who bears the responsibility and cost for getting wet or dirty sheep tidied up before slaughter.

The dispute rumbled on last year and will resurface as soon as the weather turns wet. Rain is a fact of life in Ireland and the humble sheep can't help but get wet and maybe a bit muddied when she's outside.

However, the consequences of how factories deal with wet or dirty sheep continue to be borne exclusively by farmers.

The consensus among those producing lambs is that despite last year's upheaval, when the Department forced one plant to close it doors because of this issue, the factories have not lifted a finger to help alleviate the problem.

Several men spoke of the need for factories to modernise their sheep-holding sheds in line with the realities of the Irish weather, ie put in fans or some system that would aid the drying of the fleece.

Plus develop proper clipping systems rather than the current will-I, won't-I system.

Or will we just see a continuation of the current system where the farmer gets billed for maintaining the kill line at maximum speed?

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Now to prices. I am happy to report that after an up-and-down start to 2019 yesterday morning saw official quotes for lamb on our price table once again hit the magic €5/kg mark.

Leading the field on that €5.00/kg plus 10c/kg quality bonus are Kildare Chilling, with Dawn Ballyhaunis and Kepak Athleague close behind.

Kildare, Dawn and the two ICMs dominate our table when it comes to cull ewe price with their base quote of €2.70/kg.

Both John Brooks of ICSA and Sean Dennehy of the IFA quoted me €5.00-5.10/kg yesterday morning as being where the market is currently at, with Sean claiming €5.20/kg was achievable.

Cull ewes are reported to be making €2.90-3.00/kg.

On the mart front the year has also started positively, with both Joe Wynne of Headford and Patsy Smith of Dowra noting improved prices.

In the east, Baltinglass on Saturday and Kilkenny yesterday also reported better returns.

As the year progresses I wonder how spring lamb numbers will be affected by the combination of 62,000 extra ewes going under the knife in 2018, and the reports from marts throughout the autumn that the breeding trade was very sluggish.



1 Dowra

Trade here was reported as positive for all classes. A good entry of factory lambs sold from €100-119/hd, with the top price going to a pen weighing 50kg/hd. Forward store lambs sold from €80-96.50/hd, with lighter mountain store types making €60-80/hd. Heavy cull ewes sold from €80-120/hd, with store types making €50-80/hd. A small number of pens of scanned in-lamb horned ewes sold for €80/hd.

2 Maam Cross

The trade for lambs and hoggets saw a full clearance, with black-faced cross-bred lambs averaging €71/hd; two crossbred ram lambs clicked €100 apiece. Hogget prices were steady and averaged €63/hd. Dry ewes averaged €45/hd, with two young black-faced ewes hitting €70/hd.

3 Headford

The year began on a very positive note, with Joe Wynne commenting that "lambs were well improved". Factory buyers were active for the heavier lots, while farmers mopped up the lighter store, all of which saw prices improved by €8-12/hd on pre-Christmas levels. Lambs were €60-110/hd, with that top call going to a batch weighing 54kg. Other samples of interest included 44kgs at €95/hd, 40kgs at €85 and on the store side 35kgs at €85/hd.

4 Carnew

A strong entry of sheep, with prices peaking at €121.50/hd for a batch of 18 58kg lambs. Prices in the 50kg+ section ranged from that €121.50 back to €115/hd. In the 45-49kg division the range was €107-118/hd, while in the 40-44kg division prices were €94-111/hd. Among the stores over 35kg, prices ranged from €82-101/hd, with lighter lots selling from €68-93/hd. Cull ewes made €55-122/hd, while in-lamb ewes made €80-110/hd.

5 Baltinglass

Demand for lighter lamb saw them improve by €1-3/hd, leading to 30-40kg lambs making €70-88/hd while the 40-50kg section saw prices settle between €90-108/hd. Heavy lambs sold for €110-118/hd.Hoggets made €70-118/hd, with store types selling for €25-60/hd.

6 Kilkenny

Yesterday's sale here was small, attracting just 400hd, but the trade sharpened, with George Candler happy that the improvement had created better returns all round. Butchers' lambs sold from €114-124/hd, with that top call of €124/hd going to a batch of 22 lambs that averaged 57kg. On the factory side prices ranged from €100-113/hd, with the top price here going to 15 at 49kg. Cull ewes sold for €50-140/hd.

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