Farm Ireland

Friday 20 April 2018

Live exports give trade needed kick

Joe Healy

The tap on the back of Limerick's Paulie O'Brien's head during last Sunday's Munster final only helped to secure an historic victory.

But it was the activity of live exporters over the past month that was the kick in the backside that got sheep factories back into line.

The warm weather, barbecues and tight supplies have all helped. But, just as in the cattle trade, the need for a live export trade and extra competition in the marketplace is absolutely essential.

Producer groups had become very frustrated with what they perceived as the manipulation of quotes that allowed the factories to buy cheap lambs from some, despite the loyalty and commitment of those farmer suppliers.

Base quotes have rebounded, with improvements of between 5-15c/kg evident in all plants. The Kepak plants show the biggest increase and their base of 525c/kg plus the bonus is 15c/kg up on their quote last week. Moyvalley are up 10c/kg at an all-in quote of 530c/kg. The ICMs, Dawn and Kildare Chilling are all offering a base of 520c/kg plus the bonus, with Kildare paying a further 5c/kg for quality assured lambs.

Many farmers are bargaining hard on price and carcase weight. I have heard of up to 550c/kg paid in a number of plants with one processor rumoured to have paid a bit more.

The IFA's James Murphy said the combination of strong British and French prices, ongoing live exports, lively domestic demand and reduced supplies had pushed prices to 540-550c/kg. He added that finishers were pushing hard for carcase weights of 21.5kg. Farmers with heavier lambs should sell at the marts or to the live exporters as weights of around 50kg are not really a problem. In contrast, lambs at or above this weight are losing approximately €5 or more if sold to the factories.

Most of the factories are now up at the even 200c/kg for the cull ewes. Kepak Athleague remain on 190c/kg, while Moyvalley are not quoting.

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Bord Bia reported that the sheep trade was further boosted last week by the announcement of two further live shipments of lambs before the end of this month. Trade is also being helped by steady demand across our main export markets.

Quotes for lamb were €5.20-5.30/kg, with more available for quality assured lamb. Prices paid for cull ewes were between €1.90-2/kg. To date this year, sheep supplies are 156,000hd higher.

New season lamb at live markets across England and Wales last week was making the equivalent of around €5.80/kg deadweight.

In France, Lacaune lamb supplies tightened significantly. Irish grade one lamb was making close to €6/kg.


The sheep trade at the marts enjoyed a good week with factory agents, butchers and live exporters providing keen competition. Well-fleshed lambs were making anything from €55-75 over their weight. Fat cull ewes were selling for €90-117 with feeders making from €50-80/hd. Breeding ewe hoggets sold to €145 while older ewes made up to €140.

The pick of the trade was probably Athenry Mart where lively buying of fleshed lambs for export led to prices of up to €125 or €65-76 over the €/kg. Best price over the weight was €124 for 48kg. Lighter lots moved at €50-60 over.

In Fermoy a big sale saw lambs generally sell for €53-64 with the weight. Prices in Kilkenny for the lambs more than 50kg ran from €115-121 or €64-71 over the weight. The 50-60kg lambs were making from €53-63 over and selling for €96-112/hd.

The1,650 sheep on offer at Carnew Mart enjoyed an improved trade with butcher and factory lambs with prices up by €2-3/hd. There was strong export demand for ram lambs. Butcher and factory lamb prices ranged from €98-125. Stores sold for €62-85 each. Cull ewes made from €62-114. In the breeding section the ewe hoggets were making from €95-145.

Lambs between 39-47kg sold from €89-111 or €49-66 over the weight at Mayo/Sligo Mart. Small numbers in Ballymote again due to the good weather saw lambs making from €56-65 over the €/kg.

Further west, mountain ewes with lambs at foot sold for €52-75 in Maam Cross with the culls making up to €50/hd. Ewe hoggets made from €55-78 while lambs sold from €41-98.

A large selection of store lambs at Mountbellew Mart met with increased demand and ranged from €70-92. Fleshy factory and butchers lambs were an extremely brisk trade. Prices ran from €95-121. Lambs between 40-50kg are bought by weight on Wednesdays. Heavy cull ewes were making up to and over €100/hd.

Baltinglass Mart described the trade as improved by €1-3hd. Prices for the 45-50kg lambs ran from €110-119. The 40-45kg lots ranged from €90-102 while the stores made from €65-80 each.

The sheep trade was very strong at Dowra Mart last Saturday. The best of the fat lambs were making from €100-118 each with the lowland store lambs selling for €70-90.

In Tuam, the cull ewes sold for €50-98. Nice quality lambs made from €2.25-3.60/kg.

Irish Independent