Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

Hard bargaining pays off on lambs

There's a chance that we might see a photo-finish or two at the Galway Races this week but it is a very definite photo-finish as far as the lamb quotes are concerned today. The only change from last Tuesday is a 5c/kg improvement from Kepak Athleague.

This, however, only brings them up level with the rest of the processors to a base quote of 480c/kg plus the bonus. The only variations comes from the Kildare area where the 480c/kg from Moyvalley is an all-in figure, whereas Kildare Chilling continue to pay a 5c/kg quality assurance bonus on top of the 5c/kg top-up for U grade lambs.

While those quotes are 5-10c/kg ahead of last year's levels, the facts are that production costs increases in the meantime are not being covered by this difference. So it is little wonder that many farmers are refusing to sell at the quoted figures and are quite often successfully bargaining for prices well above the quotes, in some cases 15-20c/kg over.


At a Longford/Westmeath producer group walk last week, Kepak's Bertie Mannion advised farmers to keep a good eye on weights and to move lambs when fit. He also urged farmers to handle lambs properly in order to avoid bruising, with the tail and under the throat area much better than grabbing the wool along the back or around the back quarters.

Farmers need also to bargain hard on weights as there is currently up to a kilo of a difference between the weights that producers are getting paid for. This is equivalent to almost €5/lamb. Commenting on the trade, IFA's James Murphy said that with factories actively ringing around and competing with each other for lambs, it should be clear to farmers that the trade and the markets were very strong at the moment.

He added that the lively mart trade, helped by demand for Ramadam, was another positive indicator and that good sellers were negotiating prices of between 500c/kg and 505c/kg to 21.5kg this week.

Cull ewe quotes remain at 230c/kg but again, as with the lambs, factories are willing to pay well in excess of this. It is up to the farmer to get it as it can be worth up to €10/ewe.

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Bord Bia reported that the sheep trade remained stable over the past week. Trade was being helped by the ongoing recovery in domestic consumption, along with favourable exchange rate movement which is making Irish lambs more competitive on the French market compared to British exports


Numbers of breeding ewes and hoggets are increasing every week, with the past week probably kicking the year off in earnest. Ewe hoggets sold up to €180 as the older ewes generally made €100-160.

Lambs fit for slaughter were making from €50 to €60 over the €1/kg.

Prices for stores ranged from €60-90 each. Yesterday's marts brought further improvement with price rises reported from both Athenry and Fermoy marts. Nicely fleshed lambs over 45kg were making €51-64 with the €1/kg in the west with lighter types selling for €43-55 over.

A similar number to the previous week at Mountbellew Mart saw factory and butcher lambs remain a firm trade. There was increased activity from store lamb buyers and also a brisk demand for quality lots of ewe lambs. A lot of the nicely finished lambs sold for €50-57 with their weight to a top price of €106 for 49kg.

First-crop breeding ewes were selling for €115-155. The second-croppers made from €110 to €135, while older lots made €80-115.

Carnew Mart had 1,800 sheep on offer, with a very strong trade resulting in prices being fully maintained. Butcher and factory lamb prices ranged from €95 to €108 or €53-60 over the €1/kg. Cull ewes varied from €45 to €110 each, with breeders selling for €120-165. Dowra Mart had 2,700 sheep on offer last Saturday. Trade was steady for the good quality stores and ewe lambs but lighter stores were harder sold. Lighter lambs and mountain lambs were making €45-70. The larger numbers on offer at Baltinglass Mart saw the heavy lambs up by €2/hd. Prices for the 45-50kg lots ranged from €93 to €107, while the 40-45kg lambs made €85-95 each. Wether stores were making up to €80/hd, with the rams selling up to €75/hd. Ewe lambs made up to €62 over their weight at Ballymote, with the factory and butcher lambs making €50-58 over the €1/kg. Store lambs made €35-50 over.

At Enniscorthy Mart, the butcher lambs were selling for €48-56 over the €1/kg. Fat lambs at Mayo/Sligo Mart were a similar trade to last week at €45-56 over the weight.

Indo Farming