Like Kate Middleton's clothes while on holiday in the south of France, the lamb quotes continue to fall off, with another reduction of 5-10c/kg over the past week.
This is a continuing trend throughout the past five or six weeks which has seen quotes fall by up to 25c/kg across the board or by as much as €5/lamb. The one positive is that a number of producers are bargaining for heavier weights. Prices at the moment vary with some of the plants paying up to 480c/kg to 21kg, while others are willing to pay to a higher carcase weight of up to 23kg, albeit at lower prices.
The line in the sand for farmers is a net minimum price of €100/lamb and from what I can gather this is the yardstick that farmers are guiding themselves by when bargaining with the factories.
Even though Moyvalley has dropped by 10c/kg, its all-in quote of 470c/kg still keeps it well clear of the rest for the early part of this week. A similar reduction from Kildare Chilling and Kepak Hacketstown brings them both back to a base of 455c/kg plus the bonus, but the Lilywhites are also paying a top-up of 5c/kg on quality assured lambs. Kepak Athleague is down 4c/kg and are offering 454c/kg plus 6c/kg. This compares to last week where they were on an all-in 464c/kg. Elsewhere, the two ICMs and Dawn Ballyhaunis are back by 5c/kg. This leaves the three of them quoting 455c/kg plus the bonus. A few of the factory sources were alluding to the fact that a substantial number of lambs are not killing out well.
Farmers need to watch this and maybe introduce some concentrates. I have often advised against feeding lambs to heavy weights to avoid penalties on the excess. However, it is also key that you maximise the value of your lambs by getting them to the maximum pre-agreed carcase weight. Commenting on the trade, the IFA's James Murphy said that good sellers were securing up to 480c/kg at the moment. He added that while some of the factories were paying up to 23kg, the others needed to move upwards on weights as we approached October.
All of the plants quoting are on the same 200c/kg for the cull ewes. This is similar to last week. Kepak Athleague and Moyvalley are not quoting but the latter is offering 430c/kg for light lambs.
Bord Bia reported that there was some downward pressure on the sheep trade last week. Their data showed that quotes for lambs by the end of the weekend were making between €4.60-4.70/kg. To date, sheep supplies are running almost 7pc higher compared to last year's levels.
The sheep trade at marts around the country was markedly improved over the past week, with strong farmer interest in breeding stock, while trade for well-fleshed lambs was holding its own. The quality ewe hoggets were selling from €150 to €182/hd. Good young breeding ewes sold up to €180/hd, while the general run of breeding rams made from €250-500. Very few of the heavy cull ewes made over €100. Most of them were selling for €80-95, with the lots in need of further feeding making €45-75.
At Athenry Mart yesterday, the lambs fit for slaughter were making between €44 and €54 over the weight, while lighter lambs sold for €34-44 over. Down south, the finished lambs at Fermoy Mart were selling for €45-55 with the €1/kg. Lambs under 44kg were generally making €35-45 over their weight.
Enniscorthy Mart had 2,000 sheep on offer. Ewe hoggets ranged from €127 to €182. Breeding rams made from €310 to €570. Ewe lambs sold for €90-120 or €60-70 with their weight.
Numbers were back at Dowra Mart last Saturday, with 2,500 sheep on offer but trade was up from the previous week.
A large number of sheep on offer at Mountbellew Mart saw good demand for all lots. Trade was stronger, especially for the breeding ewes and ewe hoggets.
Baltinglass also had an improved trade all round with larger numbers of sheep on offer compared to previous weeks. The breeding rams were making from €102 to €420 at Mayo/Sligo Mart. A very large show of ewes and lambs at last Saturday's Maam Cross met with a firm trade.