Farm Ireland

Friday 19 January 2018

Optimism dwindles as quotes take a hit

Joe Healy

This June bank holiday Monday was about as welcome to sheep farmers as our Justice Minister would be at Mick Wallace's birthday party. True to form, the quotes dice landed on a snake again as it did a year ago, two years ago and just about every year since I have been writing this column.

Actually, last year was not the worst, because farmer resistance and some recovery in markets led to a pretty quick increase in quotes and prices the following week and they remained fairly solid throughout the following month. While this might create a little hope and optimism, it is no guarantee for June 2013.

Ringing the factory sources trying to get quotes yesterday morning, I felt like the Waterford hurlers shooting for points on Sunday. Success was sporadic at best. The table bears testimony to this. Only three factories were willing to offer a quote.

Credit should go to the ICM plants for their efforts to maintain some form of a credible quote and give some stability to farmers with lambs to sell. Nonetheless, the ICM quote is still down by 40c/kg or between €8-9/lamb at a base quote of 530c/kg plus the 6c/kg bonus. I heard payment was based on up to carcase weight of 21kg. Moyvalley Meats was the only other plant willing to put its head on the block and it quoted an all-in figure of 530c/kg. Neither the Kepak plants or the Dawn plants quoted for any category when contacted and Kildare Chilling only quoted for hoggets and ewes.

On the hoggets, only Kildare Chilling and ICM Navan offered a quote. Both are on a base of 450c/kg plus the bonus, with Kildare offering an extra top up of 5c/kg for Quality Assured stock. Those quotes represent a fall of 40c/kg since last week.

IFA sheep chairman James Murphy said there was major anger and frustration among sheep farmers at the way lamb factories had pulled prices to loss-making levels. In the last week, some factories have slashed prices by 70-100c/kg or €15 to €20 per lamb.

The ICM plants quoted 190c/kg for cull ewes, while Kildare quoted 180c/kg.

Meanwhile, Bord Bia described the sheep trade last week as easing, despite a drop in supplies being evident. Demand fell somewhat as most consumers had stocked up in advance of the bank holiday period.

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Quotes for spring lamb were around €5.50/kg by the end of the week. Prices paid for cull ewes were €1.90-2.00/kg. To date this year, sheep supplies are 149,000hd higher than the same period last year.

Trade across the UK remained relatively steady, despite some fall in export demand from France. Trade is being maintained by tightening supplies. By the weekend, new season lamb at live markets across England and Wales made the equivalent of €6.18/kg deadweight.

In France, trade for new season lamb weakened during the week, reflecting subdued demand for UK and Irish product on account of difficult weather conditions. By the end of the week, the Irish Grade 1 lamb was making around €6.00/kg. French grass fed lamb was making from €6.80-7.20/kg. However supplies of French Lacaune lamb are expected to run out by the end of June, which should help boost demand levels for Irish product from the mid-June onwards.


Meanwhile, the downward price pressure in the factories had a knock-on effect at the sheep marts in the past week. Despite this, the heavier butcher type continued to sell reasonably well, with most of the suitably finished lots around 50kg making €60-70 over the €/kg. Heavy cull ewes generally made €80-100. Ewes for further feeding sold for €50-70.

Trade for ewes with lambs at foot has yet to really take off, with no real hunger or demand for them. Prices of €150-200 bought most of the ewes with twin lambs at foot, with a few younger lots making up to €215.

Ewes with singles and older ewes with lambs sold for €70-150. Ewe hoggets sold for €115-130, while wethers sold for €80-115. Mountain types made €55-95.

In Fermoy yesterday, good demand for finished lambs led to a lot of quality pens selling for €65-72 over their weight. Plainer types made €58-65 over and lighter lots weighing between 37-42kg sold for €45-52 over the weight.

At Athenry Mart yesterday, fleshed lambs made €54-64 over the €/kg and lighter lambs sold for €45-50 over the weight.

Down in Enniscorthy, new season lambs sold for €65-70 over their weight. Ewe hoggets sold for €110-130.


Breeding ewes with twin lambs at foot sold for €150-215 while ewes with single lambs made €140-171/unit. Light cull ewes made €35-60, with €75-85 paid for heavier lots. Cull rams made €110-130/hd.

Blackface ewes with lambs at foot made €59-105 over in Maam Cross while ewe hoggets made €55-95 each. Lambs sold for €65-85. Most cull ewes sold for around €50/hd.

Mountbellew had a slightly easier trade for a smaller number of spring lambs on offer. Cull ewes met with firm trade, while there was plenty of activity for ewes with lambs at foot.

Spring lambs nicely fleshed and weighing 40-47kg sold for €58-69 with their weight at prices of €100-116. Hoggets made €90-128, with ewe hoggets generally accounting for the higher prices. Ewes with lambs at foot sold for €130-180 and culls sold for €55-115.

The trade for ewes with lambs at foot was improved at Dowra Mart last Saturday. The best young ewes with pairs of lambs at foot made €140-185, while ewes with single lambs sold for €100-160 each. Older ewes with lambs made €70-120. Cull ewes for feeding made €35-60 and heavier ewes made €60-90/hd. Good hoggets sold for €75-110 and lighter hoggets made €50-80 each.

Nicely finished lambs around the 50kg mark at Tuam mart sold for €2.30-2.50/kg. Lighter lots suitable for the factory made €100-114. Cull ewes made up to €105/hd. The best price for ewes with lambs at foot was €165.

Irish Independent