Factories: Good news for sheep farmers as prices rise by up to 10c/kg


Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

I reckon you need a master's degree in marketing to understand what factory procurement officers are telling you about the retail sheep meat market.

While all factories lifted their quotes yesterday morning on the back of reducing numbers, speaking with some of those tasked with passing on the message, you would think the whole job was going backwards.

They've decided, at last, to give a bit more to the primary producer, but why make it sound as if it's the Irish farmers' fault that the retail market is "very difficult" abroad?

All of that aside, it's a tale this week of good news overall with lamb prices up by 5-10c/kg and cull ewes better in some plants by 10c/kg. Trade at the marts last week also pushed on well, helped by reduced numbers and factory demand.

The big movers this week are the two ICM plants who added 10c/kg to their official quote, bringing them onto €4.75+5c/kg QA. Both Kepak Athleague and Kildare Chilling added 5c/kg to their lamb price, bringing their quotes up to 4.80+5c/kg QA in the case of Kepak with Kildare on €4.80+10c/kg QA.

Dawn Ballyhaunis were unable to offer a quote.

On the cull ewe side, prices rose by 10c/kg with Kepak and the two ICMs yesterday, to €2.60/kg and €2.50/kg, respectively. Kildare Chilling were unchanged at €2.50+10c/kg QA.

John Brooks of the ICSA was upbeat about the overall outlook in the run-up to Christmas when I spoke with him, ahead of his representations to the Green Party to push for proper marketing and returns to sheep farmers for wool.

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"€5.00/kg for lamb was the line in the sand for producers this autumn; that line has been reached and may yet be breached this week," he said.

IFA national sheep chairman Sean Dennehy reported €4.90-5.05/kg for lamb as having already having been paid.

Returning to my difficulties with marketing speak, try this from the UK's Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board on possible British sheep market development from 2019 on into 2020.

"How trade develops each year will largely depend upon global market conditions as well as any Brexit deal," it said

"Should UK imports rise, which will largely depend upon changes in global demand and changes in production Down Under, then this could either increase supplies available for consumption or support an increase in exports.

"Any rise in imports could also potentially be used to build UK frozen stocks back up as they continue to be reported as low."


1 Roscrea

As numbers continue to ease back, and with well-fleshed lambs not overly plentiful here, trade was described by manager Michael Harty as being "good overall". The best of the heavy lambs was a batch averaging €55kg that sold for €115/hd, with those from 51-52kg making in general €104-107/hd. The store trade saw a top call of €90/hd in the 39-40kg bracket. Michael commented: "The good weather has been a great help to sheep men."

2 New Ross

Jim Bushe reported a cracking trade at his sale yesterday as strong demand combined with a shortage of factory and butcher types drove prices for heavy lambs to €115/hd, as in the case of a batch that weighed in at 52kg. On the store side, the top price of the day went to a batch of 31kg lambs who sold for €90/hd. Stores in general, however, sold for €75-85/hd. On the factory side prices ranged from €80-95/hd for 35-40kg lambs.

3 Ballinrobe

Numbers and trade remained steady here. Farmer demand led the store trade to settle from €64-88/hd, while among the heavier butcher types, prices ranged from €64-92/hd. Ewe lambs sold from €85-92/hd.

4 Delvin

The sale here also saw smaller numbers, with Thomas Potterton reporting the top of the factory lambs as being 36.5kg at €84/hd. Other prices included 12 at 38.5kg selling for €82.50/kg, and 11 at 36.5/kg who got the call at €72.50/hd. Thomas reckoned the good weather is worth money, concluding that with store men buying lambs to clean off grass "there could be a twist in the tale"in the New Year for those buying stores now.

5 Manorhamilton

This was a smaller sale, with Ivan Moffitt commenting that the trade overall has "come on a lot in the last while". Among the fat lambs, prices ranged from €94-108/hd, with Ivan noting "it is a lot easier to get €100/hd than a few weeks ago". The store trade was also improved, with €70-80/hd the general run. While there weren't many cull ewes about, those that did show met with a strong trade and reached a top of €86/hd.

6 Carnew

Lambs over 50kg sold from €106-115/hd, with those from 45-49kgs making €98-112/hd. Among the store types, lambs over 35kg made €80-93/hd and lighter types made €65-83/hd.

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