Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Breeding sheep boom over as falls of €50-100/hd predicted

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Prices for breeding sheep could fall by as much as €50-100/hd this year compared to last, mart managers have predicted.

As the pedigree breeding sheep sales get under way in earnest in the next fortnight, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that last year's record prices will be matched.

Rising concentrate prices, a difficult summer and recent factory price cuts have concentrated the minds of farmer buyers, and prices for hogget ewes, store lambs and some early rams have all fallen compared to the same period in 2011.

Ballinasloe Mart manager Martin Costello said prices for hogget ewes had fallen €50/hd compared to last year, with top prices down from €200/hd in 2011 to €155/hd this year.

"It's weather-induced," he maintained. "Grass supply is scarce and the money supply is as scarce as the grass.

"Farmers have seen the factories cut prices significantly in recent weeks and they don't want to work for nothing."

Store lamb prices at the mart are running €6/hd behind last year at around €85 for the best on offer.

Tullow Mart manager John Murphy said hogget ewe prices were down €20-25/hd on last year, with top prices of around €175-182/hd this year.

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Last year, hogget ewes made up to €199-205/hd.

"A lot of early lambs were sold €20/hd less than last year and cull ewe prices are also not as good as they were in 2011," he pointed out.

"The price a man gets for his lamb sets the tone for what he will pay and this year his lamb and cull price has been down. That's feeding through into the hogget and store lamb trade.

"After grass has not been plentiful either."

Looking forward to the breeding sales, Mr Murphy predicted that ram prices would fall in line with the other categories of stock.

"Last year's prices are just not going to happen this year but there might be some better value this year," he maintained.

Auctioneer David Quinn of Carnew Mart forecasts price falls of as much as €50-100/hd for pedigree rams for commercial use this year.

"Rams were exceptionally dear last year at €450-600/hd for good ram lambs. This year we have sold about 30 rams, three- and four-year-old rams, at €250-300/hd."

ICSA sheep chairman Paul Brady noted that there appeared to be less interest in early lamb production this year due to the rising cost of meal feeding. IFA sheep chairman James Murphy admitted that there was the potential for the back end of the year to be challenging.

"Prices are going to be more reflective of the market this season," he said.

"But all farmers need is for a consistent price for their lambs. There is no immediate cause for alarm," Mr Murphy said.

"The factory price has remained at €5/kg up to 21.5kg, despite the biggest kill in two years. There is demand for the quality lamb that Irish farmers produce."

Indo Farming