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McDonald's decision 'spooks' sheep sector



McDonald’s announced it is closing (Rui Vieira/PA)

McDonald’s announced it is closing (Rui Vieira/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

McDonald’s announced it is closing (Rui Vieira/PA)

McDonald's decision on Sunday to close all its outlets here and in the UK has had a severe knock-on effect on the sheep sector.

With uncertainty gripping the trade, Irish Country Meats stopped quoting for hoggets yesterday morning as its sales teams assessed the damage to their business as the impact of the fast food giant's decision swept through the entire international food industry.

An ICM representative told me yesterday that the McDonald's decision had "spooked" many of his firm's retail customers into dropping orders.

By lunchtime Kildare Chilling was also not quoting for hogget, its representative telling me their sales teams had "hit a brick wall".

The problem for both these plants is that the vast majority of what they kill is exported. The representative said the French market appears to have panicked due to uncertainty around what further measures and closures maybe in the pipeline.

My ICM source added that "France had become difficult" towards the end of last week but that it had been hoped that "the German market would pick up the slack".

However, by yesterday Germany too had become a different country.

Both these plants do continue to quote for cull ewes - €3/kg in the case of the ICMs and €3 plus 10c/kg quality assurance from Kildare. ICM's quote for spring lamb also remains unchanged at €6.50 plus 10c/kg QA.

This leaves only Kepak Athleague and Dawn Ballyhaunis quoting for hogget, as both these companies trade primarily within Ireland.

Kepak continue on €5.60 plus 15c/kg QA, with Dawn also unchanged at €5.60/kg plus 10c/kg QA.


Kepak dropped its quote for cull ewes yesterday by 10c/kg to €2.95/kg. Dawn and the two ICM plants continue on €3/kg with Kildare also holding firm at €3.00+10c/kg QA.

Both Dawn and the two ICMs opened the bidding for spring lamb with an initial quote of €6.50+10c/kg QA over the weekend.

Looking at figures from Bord Bia since the start of the year, sheep processors have killed almost 21pc more than the same period in 2019.

Throughput of lamb/hogget is up 20.7pc at 480,766 as opposed 398,291 for 2019 to the middle of March. Figures for cull ewes and rams are back, however - 13.7pc to 70,484 as against last year's 81,711.

It's a similar case in the North with total sheep slaughterings up 31.6pc to 82,418 as opposed to 62,639 for the first two and a half months of 2019.

This increase in Northern processing saw live sheep exports from the Republic of Ireland fall last week to 5,009, back from the previous week's 6,266.

Mart prices recovered last week, with David Quinn of Carnew saying the €10/hd drop in hogget prices suffered two weeks ago was reversed as prices first steadied and then moved forward.

Mart managements across the country continue to stringently implement HSE guidelines in relation to Covid-19.

The marts stress that they fully appreciate the co-operation of their customers.




A smaller sale, with Patsy Smith reporting a good trade for factory hoggets, while store hoggets also held well. In-lamb ewes and ewes with lambs at foot were a more difficult trader.

Prices for factory hoggets ranged from €110-140/hd. Good quality stores sold from €90-110/hd, with lighter lots averaging €60-85/hd.

Heavy cull ewes made from €90-135/hd, with stores making €50-80/hd. The trade for in-lamb ewes saw prices in the €90-155/hd bracket, while ewes with lambs at foot made €110-195/hd.


Numbers here were also less than last week, but David Quinn reported a stronger sale with hoggets hitting a top of €140/hd. The price fall of €10/hd from two weeks ago was reversed with sheep recovering here by around €12/hd last week. 50kg+ hoggets sold from €135-140/hd, with those in the 45-49kg bracket making €125-135/hd. Heavy cast ewes sold for €70-145/hd.


Numbers here were similar to last week's with the trade also reported as being similar for hoggets. Stag ewes were a good trade, while ewes with lambs were a little easier. Sample prices included 12 wether lambs at €127.50/kg, two 52kg ewe lambs €125/hd and eleven 48kg ewe lambs at €117/hd. Stag ewes sold for €60-130/hd. On the breeding side, two second crop ewes with single lambs at foot averaged €210/hd, while a first crop ewe with twins at foot sold for €220.


Numbers here eased back last week as did the trade following the factories' price cuts. On the store lamb front prices ranged from €72-108/hd, while among the factory lambs prices ran from €115-122/hd. Cast ewes sold for €85-112/hd.


Prices for hoggets ranged from €115-157/hd, with that top price paid for a batch of 10 ewe hoggets weighing 62kg. Other prices of note included 48kg at €120/hd, while a selection at 51kgs and 56kg averaged €135/hd. Cast ewes sold to a top of €136/hd off of an €80/hd base.

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