Another good week for sheep farmers prices inch upwards

Photo Brian Farrell
Photo Brian Farrell
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

I was stunned to hear from ICSA's John Brooks that there is no Department supervision of weights, trim or classification at sheep factories.

Mr Brooks claimed it is "scandalous" that sheep farmers, after surrendering their stock to a processor, "operate in a vacuum when it comes to the monitoring of carcass trim weights and grades".

He explained: "There is no EU legislative requirement for processors to classify sheep carcasses as is the case for cattle and pigs. Weights and grading are all at the discretion of the meat plant, with all information manually inputted."

Speaking with factory representatives, in some plants there appeared to be a bit of confusion regarding the independent supervision of processing practices.

At others I was told that there is an "industry standard in relation to trim" dating back to the 1980s, and that is what is adhered to.

I'm amazed that it seems to have taken nearly 40 years for someone on the farmers' side to stumble across these facts.

Meanwhile, prices continue to rise. Base prices for lambs were up 5-10c/kg at most plants.

The exception was Kepak Athleague who held their base at €4.95/kg, although they rose their quality assurance bonus from 5c/kg to 15c/kg.

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Kildare Chilling remain the top payer on our table with their €5.15+10c/kg QA, up 5c/kg on last week. The two ICMs and Dawn Ballyhaunis all lift their base quote 10c/kg to €5.00+10c/kg QA.

Cull ewes remain static, with €2.70/kg the base line across the industry. Kildare Chilling do offer a 10c/kg QA.

IFA national sheep chairman Sean Dennehy said yesterday lamb prices continue to strengthen, with factories actively seeking numbers and paying €5.30 to €5.40/kg and some feeders holding out for €5.45/5.50. He said ewes are making up to €3.00/kg.

John Brooks concurred but claimed that cull ewes are now making up a third of the daily kill at some factories. The theory is that with that with bigger numbers of ewes going out of the breeding cycle, the number of lambs to be born this year will have to be down.

On the mart front prices pushed on nicely last week, with some yards reporting them up by €3-77/hd; Jim Bushe of New Ross reported rises of up to €10/hd where heavy lambs were concerned.

While improving factory prices are the main driver ringside, there can be little doubt your traditional store lamb buyer with access to either early grass or green crop is also a major player.



1. Ballinrobe

Numbers were up here and prices were up for store lambs. What's driving the trade overall is improving factory prices but there can be little doubt your traditional store lamb buyer with surplus grass after that spell of unseasonably warm weather recently is also a major player. Store lambs sold for €82-121/hd here, with ewe lambs seeing a top of €118/hd. Fat cull ewes sold from €76-112/hd.

2 Maam Cross

It was no different here with a good to strong trade helped along by farmer buyers. Black-faced and cross-bred lambs averaged €85/hd, with a single cross-bred wether lamb seeing the call of the day at €121. Three wether hoggets set the bar at €88/hd as prices for hoggets averaged €76/hd. Dry ewes sold to a top of €100/hd, as given for a batch of 10 black-faced ewes, with overall prices for dry ewes averaging €65/hd on the day.

3 Baltinglass

Numbers here were less than previously. Prices were reported as better in some cases by between €4-7/hd. Lambs from 40-50kg sold for €99-116/hd, with 35-40kg making from €85-99/hd. Stores saw a top of €75/hd, with cast ewes selling for €70-120/hd.

4 New Ross

Jim Bushe reported his sale yesterday as being up €10/hd for heavy sheep, with everything else also well improved. Top of the price tree in relation to those heavy sheep were 52kg lambs who clicked €130/hd, with 47kg typically making €122/hd. Cast ewes sold for €126-133/hd, with lighter ewes making €80-120/hd.

5 Kilkenny

Numbers here yesterday were back on previous weeks, which helps explain why heavy lambs had George Candler taking bids that ranged from €113-125/hd. Factory lambs sold from €107-119/hd, with cast ewes making €65-125/hd. Prices in the 33-42kg section ranged from €90/hd to €106/hd.

6 Carnew

Trade was also reported as brisk here, with all prices better by €2-3/hd - 45-49kg lambs sold from €107-118/hd, with 40-44kgs making €102-114/hd. Store lambs over 35kg made €90-105/hd, while lighter lambs went for €75-102/hd. Cull ewes made €65-124/hd and in-lamb ewes made €110-160/hd.

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