Farm Ireland

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Sheep flock to rise as prices increase

Caitriona Murphy and Neil Brady

The national sheep flock is set to continue its upward trend this year as farmer demand for breeding ewes and rams soars.

Price increases of up to €100/hd were recorded at the first of the pedigree sheep sales at Tullow Mart at the weekend, where the average price for Charollais rams was €780/hd.

With 183 sheep on offer, there was an 86pc clearance rate for the males on offer, while all the females were sold, making an average price for ewes of €572/hd.

Top price on the day was €3,900 for a hogget ram owned by Eddie O'Gorman, from Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary. Mr O'Gorman also had the supreme champion ram lamb.

Judge Drew Cowan was so impressed with the ram lamb that he bought it for himself at a price of €3,100.

Commercial farmers played a major part in the sale, including one buyer who bought seven of the ewes on offer. This demand from outside the usual pedigree circle points to a growing demand for breeding stock in mainstream commercial flocks.

Bord Bia and CSO figures shows that ewe lamb retention rose by 14-15pc last year after several years when the national sheep flock was in freefall.

Average sheep prices to date this year are running 11pc or 50c/kg higher than last year.

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Prices for breeding ewes at the marts have topped €200/hd in recent weeks, while prices for hogget ewes are up €20-30/hd on last year.

Michael McHugh, head of Teagasc's sheep advisory service, said this year's sheep numbers are up about 6pc on last year, with a strong demand for replacement stock.

"Many farmers are refreshing their herd with better stock, rather than expanding their size," he said. "The slight increase in herd size is expected to continue in the following year, and a growing export market will help to stir up an increased demand."

Bord Bia's Margaret Moran said the drop in New Zealand imports presented a chance to increase Irish sheep exports.

"Some of the European markets are looking for a more secure supply than New Zealand, and Ireland is only two days from most European markets," she said.

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