Lamb price leakage plugged for now
I referred to the sheep trade as being like Noah's Ark last week, but an ark that had sprung a leak as regards prices. I am happy to report that factories seemed to have plugged, at least temporarily, those leaks. However, the boat is now riding very low in the water from the farmer's point of view.
Before getting into the detail on the domestic price front, I took a look at sheep reports from the Southern Hemisphere. Prices in Australia for lamb hit a high of Au$8.90/kg or about €4.80/kg in July, while yesterday that price had slipped to around the €4.18/kg mark.
In short, the Australian sheep producer has been having quite a good time of it, aided by the fact that the national flock has contracted while additional markets, particularly in China and South East Asia have become very active. An outbreak of African Swine flu among the pig population in China may yet see the authorities having to implement a slaughter out policy which may further increase demand for sheep meat.
What has all this to do with trade in Europe? Quite a lot, actually. With demand strengthening closer to home, both New Zealand and Australian lamb processors and shippers have been concentrating a greater proportion of their sales efforts in securing these markets from competition from further afield.
Combined with the strength of sterling, supplies of Southern Hemisphere sheep meat into the UK has fallen this year, which means, in theory, a greater opportunity of Irish lamb in France. The reason being France has tended to import large volumes of British product, but with Southern Hemisphere supplies limited, any traditional excess is being absorbed domestically in Britain.
So while Irish supplies of sheep to the factories are up almost 55,000 year on year to date, the reason you don't hear any complaints about oversupply is the markets are there to take those extra numbers.
On the flip side, because those numbers keep coming factories have been able to keep, farmers off balance and prices well under control. Quotes for ewes and lambs yesterday morning were no worse than they were last Monday morning, they aren't any better either.
Kildare Chilling still lead the pack on lamb price with their offering of €4.60+10c/kg QA (Quality Assurance) with Kepak Athleague next up on €4.55+5c/kg QA. Dawn Ballyhaunis and the two ICM plants all continue on €4.50+10c/kg QA.
On the cull ewe side, Kildare Chilling were not in a position to quote yesterday, while all the other plants on our table continued at last week's €2.40/kg.
IFA sheep chairman Sean Dennehy claimed lamb supplies are tighter this week, with factories paying €4.70/kg. He said ewes are making €2.60/kg.
Mr Dennehy said farmers were frustrated with the way the clean sheep policy was being implemented. He said some plants had hijacked the policy to impose unacceptable charges and lecturing farmers about clipping. In some cases, the factories and the Department are sending lambs home.
The number of sheep on offer fell back slightly, but the number of customers rose. "We had more jeep and trailer men, lads looking to bring home 50-60 stores at a time," said Patsy Smith. Factory lambs sold from €80-100/hd, with well-presented forward stores making €70-85/hd. Light mountain store types made €45-60 with heavier types making €60-70/hd. A small selection of hoggets sold from €100-165/hd. On the cull ewe side, heavy ewes made €70-95/hd, while feeder types made €40-70/hd.
Michael Harty described trade as a bit hit and miss. "It was all down to quality. Store lambs sold for around the €2/kg," Michael said. Top call among the heavier lambs went to a batch at 57kg which sold for €105/hd. Cull ewes hit a top of €100/hd. "Trade was a bit tricky," Michael concluded.
Trade for butcher and factory lamb remained unchanged. Brood hoggets who were up €5/hd. Lambs from 45-50kg sold from €92-100/hd, with 35-40kg making €79-90/hd. Lighter lambs sold to a top of €71/hd. Cast ewes sold from €50-87/hd assuring a full clearance. Suffolk-cross hoggets made up to €155/hd, with two- to four-year-old breeding ewes selling for €70-112/hd.
A big sale with finished lamb peaking at €106/hd for 49kg, with other notable prices including 55.1kg at €105/hd and 60kg also at €105/hd. Ewe lambs saw a top call of €146/hd for 59.9kg. However, most prices ranged €104-114/hd on weights between 42kg and 53kg. Cast ewes sold from €38-92. The store lamb trade saw sample prices include 37.8/kg at €79/hd, 40.8kg at €84.50/hd and 44kg at €85.50/hd.
George Chandler said trade yesterday was steady, with the tops of the store lambs seeing 53kg making €104/hd, back to €93/hd for 47kg. He added that store trade had a shake more men out to buy with prices ranging from €70-85/hd, while cull ewes sold to a top of €108/hd.
Numbers were described as "medium" and prices steady to improving with the best of the butchers lambs seeing a batch of four at 53.4kg making €119/hd. From 53-59kg, prices ranged from €103-111/hd. On the store side, prices ranged from €73/hd for 41kg to €97/hd for 45kg. Cast ewes sold from €32-106/hd with breeding sheep making €84-125/hd. The special Munster Sheep Breeders sale of pedigree rams saw Suffolks make from €240-280/hd with Charolais selling for €200-240/hd.
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