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Sheep men holding out for another strong year

One factory man I spoke to yesterday morning said to me that it had been 'Christmas' for sheep farmers throughout the whole of the past year.

While accepting that all costs of production have increased substantially on farms, I think it is fair to say that most of the sheep men would be quite satisfied if the year ahead turns out anything similar to 2011 and they make it a three in a row, as 2010 was also a favourable year for the sheep sector.

I remember talking to a farmer this time last year, who said that 2010 had been the best year he had experienced since he began farming in the 1970s.

Good prices have ensured that suppliers remain motivated to do whatever work or feeding is necessary to bring a suitable product to the market.

Incidentally, the base quotes for this day 12 months ago ranged from 470-480c/kg. Throughout the year I think the lowest they hit quote-wise was around the 440c/kg, with quotes ranging from 600-650c/kg during the month of May.

The good news for today compared to the first Tuesday last year is that the range is 20c/kg better at 490-500c/kg, with actual prices hitting up to and even beyond 520c/kg. Farmers who are getting this 520c/kg to 23kg are receiving a gross price of €120/lamb. Nothing to complain about here.

Dawn Ballyhaunis and both Kepak plants take an early lead in the quote stakes with all three quoting 500c/kg plus the bonus.

Kildare have a similar final figure with their 495c/kg base plus the 6c/kg and 5c/kg bonuses they are offering.

Moyvalley are offering an all-in 500c/kg, while the two ICM factories are quoting 490c/kg plus 6c/kg.

Commenting on the trade, IFA sheep committee chairman, James Murphy, said that while speaking to farmers over Christmas, he had been surprised at how few of them had lambs left to sell. He said the vast majority of them had cleared the decks prior to the onset of the festive period.

Mr Murphy added that, as a result, lambs were scarce on the ground and that this scarcity was helping to keep the trade strong with finishers holding out for, and securing, up to 520c/kg for their stock.

A few farmers mentioned to me that they were finding it easier to get positive movement from the processors on price rather than on weight, and that it was a case of taking the highest price to 23kg or 5c/kg less to 23.5kg, for example.

So, I suppose the message is to offload your lambs when you think they are hitting the 23kg.

The ewe trade is also continuing very strongly, with quotes ranging from a high of 290c/kg in the ICM plants and Kildare Chilling back to the 270c/kg on offer from Kepak Athleague.

Kepak Hacketstown and Dawn Ballyhaunis are on 280c/kg. Again, as with the lambs, if you are selling, it is worthwhile to bargain as prices paid recently have varied from 300c/kg to 330c/kg.

Indo Farming