Factories: Cull ewe and lamb quotes remain static

11/4/2019 Loughrea Sheep Mart
Michael Conroy from Headford loads up his newly bought Spring Lamb at Loughrea Mart.
Photo Brian Farrell
11/4/2019 Loughrea Sheep Mart Michael Conroy from Headford loads up his newly bought Spring Lamb at Loughrea Mart. Photo Brian Farrell
Sean McNamara, Chairperson of the ICSA at a recent protest
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

The situation on the ground yesterday saw quotes for both lambs and cull ewes no worse than they were seven days ago.

The only issue is that as we went to press two of the factories on our table were unable to quote because of a continuing farmer protests, while Moyvalley were unavailable.

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The question then is if prices continue to hold, with both Kepak Athleague and Dawn Ballyhaunis effectively taken out of the equation, what does this tell us firstly about supplies and secondly about market demand?

Yesterday's quotes from the two ICM plants of €4.50+10c/kg QA are unchanged, while Kildare Chilling's €4.60+10c/kg QA has not budged.

Prices for cull ewes are also unchanged, with Kildare ahead on €2.60+10c/kg QA.

Prices on the ground for lambs are reported by IFA sheep committee chair Sean Dennehy as operating around the €4.60/kg mark, with the top of the tops coming into €4.80-4.90/kg.

On the cull ewe front Mr Dennehy was reporting €2.70-2.80/kg as being possible.

Sean McNamara of the ICSA was a little more reserved, saying that most factories were continuing to operate off of a base of €4.50/kg, but he agreed that the top of the market was in the region of €4.80-4.90/kg.

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He was a little more reserved in relation to prices for cull ewes, quoting €2.50-2.60/kg.

Mr McNamara last week raised the question as to why live sheep exports have not resumed with Singapore despite market conditions being very favourable.

I contacted Bord Bia on the matter and they told that despite no Irish sheep having travelled to that part of the world since September 2016, Singapore is "still open for live sheep from Ireland (by air freight)".

Heavier lambs

Patsy Smith said some sheep men are buying heavier lambs on the basis that as they have plenty of grass, and as long as it holds out, they won't actually cost anything to keep.

Will they get a spin out of them by Christmas? Irish sheep slaughterings to date are back 7pc compared to the same period in 2018 according to Bord Bia - 1,661,938 versus 1,783,586.

Once the British get past their rush to sell sheep ahead of Brexit, market conditions may become clearer.

With difficulties persisting on the cattle side, mart managers continue to report increased sheep buying activity among some traditional beef men.

"We're seeing more and more cattle men getting involved in sheep," said Stephen Hannon of Ballymote Mart.

This is a reflection both on the recent poor weather and the continuing downturn in the beef trade. The outlay on store lambs is a lot less than that required for store cattle, and light ovines are a lot easier on wet land than heavy bovines.

I have a feeling that the an increase in the national flock will not be restricted to west of the Shannon, as mart returns from places such as Carnew last week saw breeding hoggets improve by up to €10/hd and topped out at €185/hd.

I wonder, however, how prepared is the marketplace if the Irish sheep population should increase. More to the point, what is the plan from the factories and Bord Bia for the Irish sheep sector long term regardless of whether the numbers go up or down?

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