Farm Ireland

Monday 18 December 2017

Lambs to Libya a relief for farmers

Joe Healy

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What a weekend. First things first, last Friday's shipment of approximately 5,000 male lambs and hoggets to Libya was another significant and welcome boost to the sheep industry here in this country.

The ship load of around 4,000 ram lambs and 1,000 hogget rams set sail on Friday evening with reported prices of €2.50/kg liveweight paid to farmers for ram lambs weaned and eating meal.

This, allied to the demand for live exporting for Ramadan, has been extremely timely given the low morale amongst sheep farmers towards the end of May and early June as quotes were falling in the factories.

This week sees quotes rise with one plant up by 15c/kg, four others up by 5c/kg, one holding its own, with Kildare Chilling being the surprise exception and dropping their quote by 5c/kg. They are so often the pace setters and if my information is correct they paid up to 555c/kg for lambs yesterday but, for the moment, their base quote has fallen to 525c/kg plus the two 5c/kg bonuses.

Kepak Hacketstown's 525c/kg base plus 5c/kg was for yesterday only, as was Athleague's 530c/kg plus 5c/kg.

Elsewhere, the ICM plants and Dawn Ballyhaunis have increased their quote to 530c/kg plus the bonus. Some hard sellers are securing strong prices and up to 21.5kg, while others are taking the factory quote and to 21kg.

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The IFA's James Murphy said that the lamb trade was very steady, with prices of 550-560c/kg to 21.5kg being paid. He added that Ramadan, which begins on July 9, will provide a further boost to the trade.

The quotes for the cull ewes have also improved with both ICM plants jumping by 10c/kg to join Kildare on 200c/kg. Both Kepak's and Dawn Ballyhaunis remain on a quote of 190c/kg.

The sheep trade has firmed this week as supplies struggle to match demand levels. Trade is being helped by solid demand across our main export markets in response to upcoming religious festivals.

Weekly sheep supplies for the week ending June 22 were around 2,400hd higher, compared to the same week in 2012 at 49,300hd. To date this year, sheep supplies are 147,600hd higher.

According to Bord Bia, trade in Britain weakened during the week reflecting some increase in lamb supplies being marketed. By the weekend, new season lamb at live markets across England and Wales were making the equivalent of around €5.93/kg deadweight.

In France, trade has firmed on the back of French Lacaune lamb supplies tightening significantly. By the end of the week, the Irish Grade 1 lamb was making close to €6.00/kg. Demand for Irish product over the coming weeks is expected to remain strong as the Ramadan period approaches.


The mart trade has benefitted hugely in recent weeks from the added interest of live exports. What this has really highlighted is the absolute need for competition as it kicked in, in earnest during the early part of last month just when the factories were beginning to exert serious downward pressure on prices.

Since then, the competition in the market place has proven that their negative attitude towards prices was unjustified and that they were, and are, well able to pay much more than they were aiming to be paying.

Most marts reported an improved trade during the week with the majority of fleshed lambs making €60-70 over the weight. Heavy cull ewes were making a few euros either side of the €100/hd. Feeders made anything from €50 to €70. A number of marts also remarked on a noticeable number of ewes and hoggets suitable for breeding beginning to appear, with prices ranging from €80 to €144 depending on age and quality.

Athenry Mart probably enjoyed the best of the trade yesterday, with the fleshed lambs making €60-70 over their weight. Lighter lots made €45-60 over. Down in Fermoy most of the good lambs made €57-67 over the €1/kg, while in Kilkenny the lambs over 50kg were selling for prices of €101-119, or from €51 to €67 with the weight. The 40-50kg types sold for €95-115 or €54-69 over.

Dowra Mart had an improved sheep trade last Saturday, with 850 sheep on offer. Factory lambs made €100-120. Forward stores were making €70-85 each. A few pens of light store lambs made from €40 to €65. Heavy cull ewes made €70-110.

Trade was strong for all sheep at Ballymote Mart. Lambs under 40kg were making €30-46 over their weight. The 40-50kg lots made €55-62 over. Heavier butcher types sold up to €60 with the €1/kg.

Carnew had a bigger entry with 2,200hd on offer and described trade as good, with keen export and factory demand. Butcher and factory lamb prices ranged from €102 to €126.

Over in Maam Cross, Black face mountain ewes with lambs at foot were making €52-101/hd. The horned ewe hoggets sold for €55-90 each. Cull ewes traded around €50/hd.

Lambs fit for slaughter at Mayo/Sligo Mart generally sold from €90-116/hd.

Irish Independent