Factories: Sheep farmers still waiting for prices lift-off


Photo Brian Farrell
Photo Brian Farrell
Neil Armstrong’s colleague Buzz Aldrin on the Moon in 1969.
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Back when I was a boy, the space race between the USA and USSR was gripping stuff.

I'd watch cross-legged on the floor of our front room in awe as the ground control engineer counted down: "Five, four, three, two, one… we have ignition, we have lift-off".

The telly would shake as the huge Saturn Five rocket rose slowly from its pad. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were on their way.

The Irish sheep trade isn't NASA that's for sure. Where NASA got to the moon, farmers feel that in relation to prices for new sheep the processors haven't even gotten their vehicle to the launch pad yet.

"€6.00-6.30/kg is what's on offer for new-season lamb," said ICSA's Sean McNamara. "That's no good to sheepmen trying to make up ground after a run of bad prices."

Mr McNamara reported hogget as selling from €5.40-560/kg, with factories becoming a little anxious about supplies.

IFA national sheep chairman Sean Dennehy said the lamb trade has improved slightly this week, with farmers getting €5.50-5.60/kg paid.

"Lambs remain very scarce and farmers should negotiate hard on both price and weights," he said. "This time last year hogget was making €6.10/6.20/kg."

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Hogget appears to be selling from a base of €5.40-5.45/kg with various add-ons bringing some prices up around the €5.50-5.60/kg mark.

On our price table, most of the major players are quoting €5.20 plus various bonuses for hogget - both the ICMs and Dawn Ballyhaunis have lifted their quote by 20c/kg, bringing them in line with Kildare Chilling and Kepak Athleague. Moyvalley Meats lead the table on €5.40/kg.

Moyvalley are also the best payers for new-season lamb with their €6.50/kg. The only other plants willing to quote for new lamb were the ICMs, on €6.00+10c/kg QA.


Despite repeated commentary on the factory side about some lambs being too heavy and that this is a "problem", yesterday brought a lift in the price of cull ewes from Dawn, up 20c/kg to €2.80/kg thus keeping them in step with Kepak and Kildare Chilling.

Kildare top our price tree as they also quote a 10c/kg quality bonus on qualifying stock. The two ICMs remain on €2.60/kg.

Out at the marts numbers in general appear to be steady with a few places reporting tighter numbers while others reported good turnouts.

It took Apollo 11 three days to get to the moon; let's see what the factories can do with their prices in a week.



1 Mountbellew

There was a large number of sheep on offer here, and trade was "brisk" with demand remaining strong. Sample prices included 15 53kg ewes who made €119/hd, six 61kg wethers at €124/hd and 11 38kg ewe hoggets at €96/hd. The large number of stag ewes saw their price range from €80-134/hd. First crop ewes with twin lambs at foot sold to €270/hd with the best of the second crop ewes with twins at foot close behind at €262/hd.

2 Headford

Hogget prices here ranged from €75-130/hd with that top price coming for a batch that averaged 62/kgs. Other sample prices included 37kgs at €80/hd, 45kgs at €95/hd and 57kgs at €128/hd. Ewes with lambs at foot sold from €155-251/hd. Cull ewes made up to €70/hd.

3 Ballinrobe

Numbers here remained similar to the previous week, with trade also steady. Prices for store lambs ranged from €85-115/hd, with heavier types selling from €90-124/hd. Fat ewes made €85-115/hd, while the top price for ewes with twin lambs at foot settled at €260/hd.

4 Tuam

Top price for lambs here saw €74/hd with the €/kg given for 54kgs ie €128/hd, followed closely by 51.5kgs at €124/hd. Ewes with twin lambs at foot saw a top price of €250/hd given, while older ewes made up to €210/hd.

5 Maam Cross

The story here saw blackface and cross-bred averaging €66/hd, with one batch of 30 blackface ewe lambs setting the top bar at €75/hd. Hoggets averaged €83/hd, with four blackface ram lambs making €140/hd. Ewes with lambs at foot averaged €143/hd with the top price of €180/hd going to two ewes with four lambs at foot. Dry ewes averaged €81/hd to a max of €100/hd.

6 New Ross

Mart manager Jim Bushe described his trade overall as "goodish" - a neat way of saying it was better in places while pressurised in other areas. Jim noted that while there was a share of talk coming from the factories about heavy sheep being "too heavy" or "too fat", his trade saw 70kg lambs make €123/hd, while 44-56kg lambs sold from €116-128/hd. Heavy cast ewes sold from €110-132/hd, with lighter casts making from €75-106/hd The store trade was impressive, with 40kg lambs making up to €103 and 37-38.5kgs selling from €94-100/hd.

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