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Big lift to lamb prices as factories’ hand forced by supply concerns

Quotes up by as much as 30c/kg to €6.50/kg + 10QA

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Variation: This lot of 13 ram lambs, averaging 44kg, made €127 apiece at Dowra. Photos: Gerry Faughnan

Variation: This lot of 13 ram lambs, averaging 44kg, made €127 apiece at Dowra. Photos: Gerry Faughnan

On offer at Dowra

On offer at Dowra

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Variation: This lot of 13 ram lambs, averaging 44kg, made €127 apiece at Dowra. Photos: Gerry Faughnan

Quotes for lamb rose yesterday by 10-30c/kg as market demand dictated that factories up their game on the back of reducing numbers.

With such a big lift, to €6.50/kg + 10QA, it was interesting to listen to factory buyers’ analysis the trade. Conversations yo-yo’d between “lambs are too dear” and “farmers need pick their lambs, have them clean and well fleshed”. All fairly standard fare.

However, as with any business, it’s not what you’re told, it’s how you’re told that often gives a better guide to what’s actually going on.

The ICM group, for example, yesterday decided not to quote, which is unusual for them. There was no explanation, just a very brief message to say they didn’t want to be on this week’s table.

It was the briefness of the conversation that told me there was some serious thinking going on.

That said, groups supplying both Navan and Camolin are reported to be receiving, including bonuses, €6.70-6.80/kg for top-end lambs.

Kepak continue not to quote but reliable information has them paying €6.50/kg including 10c/kg quality assurance.

Both Kildare Chilling and Dawn Ballyhaunis quoted €6.50/kg plus 10c/kg QA a lift of 10c/kg and a whopping 30c/kg, respectively.

Both plants stay at €2.90/kg for cull ewes, although Kildare do offer an additional 10c/kg QA.

With factory prices continuing on an upward trajectory, Sean McNamara of the ICSA remains adamant that €7/kg will be seen sooner rather than later.

“The sheep are just not there and the market is strong,” he said.

While never actually conceding that lambs were scarce, one factory rep did admit: “Sheep are slower to come than we might have thought.”

He put down in part to his belief that farmers had cut back on meal feeding and were “trying to do it all off of grass”, meaning lambs were taking longer to flesh.

Another factory rep complained that lambs were getting heavy and that farmers should draw their sheep regularly.

Are you beginning to see the trend? Factory concern for continuity of supply.

Data from the Central Statistics office (CSO) shows that the total sheep kill for the first nine months of this year is back 130,600 on last year: 2,191,900 as against 2,322,500.

This fall in numbers also saw a fall in the volume of sheepmeat produced, with just 46,200 tonnes entering the market from January to the end of September this year as against 49,200t for the same period in 2020.

Because these figures include data from local-authority-licensed slaughter facilities as well as from licensed exporting plants, they give a more accurate overall picture.

For example the Department of Agriculture’s meat market report for the last week of September gave the overall sheep kill at exporting plants for this year to that date as being 1,956,471 the CSO figure quoted above is 235,429 stronger.

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On the mart front, sales are getting smaller, which is helping to underpin improving prices and reports from the North are that mart numbers there too have slackened considerably.

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On offer at Dowra

On offer at Dowra

On offer at Dowra

Also slackening are the number of lambs coming south for slaughter, with the second last week of October seeing 7,567 crossing the border for direct slaughter a drop of 277 on the previous week.

Around the marts

Mountbellew

Smaller numbers, with the trade remaining steady to good for most lots, although lighter stag ewes were a little easier.

Trade for the heavier stags continued strong, however, with prices overall ranging from €70-135/hd.

Sample prices among the lambs included ten of 34.7kg ewes at €120/hd, seven of 33kg ewe lambs €93/hd and ten of 49.2kg ewes at €153/hd.

On the breeding side ewe hoggets sold for €132-200/hd, with first-crop ewes making €120-140/hd, while older ewes sold from €80-120/hd.

Kilkenny

Yesterday’s sale of 500 sheep was described by George Candler as “on fire”, with the proceedings concluded in record time such was the demand.

In the butcher section prices ranged from €140-159/hd, with factory types selling from €120-153/hd.

In the store section, you were not going to get much for less than €3/kg as prices ranged from €2.85-3.17/kg or €88-119/hd, with thirty-five 40kg lambs taking top honours at that €3.17/kg or €111/hd.

Prices for cull ewes ranged from €80-150/hd.

Corrin

A smaller sale but “a good sale” was the lady in the office’s description, and she should know, given that like many office staff up and down the country, she has probably forgotten more about the sheep trade than most men could ever hope to know.

Sample prices saw a top call of €155/hd given for 51.5kg lambs, with many from 51-54kg floating from €150-155/hd.

In the lighter division 44-46kgs sold from €132-137/hd, while light stores from 36-38kg made €106-110/hd.

Cast ewes changed hands for €74-170/hd.

Raphoe

A good-size sale yesterday, given the day of the year, but numbers were back on previous weeks.

Strong demand pushed 47-53kg lambs to sell from €140-157/hd, with those in the 41-46kg bracket making €120-140/hd.

Among the lighter store types, 27-32kgs made €80-100/hd, with 33-44kgs selling for €100-120/hd.

Cull ewes sold from €80-166/hd.

New Ross

“I’ve never seen the like of it on the first of November,” said Jim Bushe after his sale finished yesterday.

“Fat lambs alone were up €10-12/hd.”

Jim reported a top call of €156/hd for 52kg lambs, followed by 50kgs at €154/hd, adding: “No fleshy sheep were sold for less than €132-133/hd.” This meant your factory lamb made €140-150/hd.

Cull ewes were in short supply, with the top call seeing €182 paid.

Athenry

The story here yesterday was also of smaller numbers and a stronger trade.

Sample prices among the heavier lambs included 58kgs at €178/hd, 50kgs at €150/hd and 55kgs at €156/hd, while 62kgs cracked on to €160/hd.

In the mid-range section, 43kgs sold to €125/hd, with 47kgs depending on quality making €146-151/hd, while the better 48-49kg lamb sold from €148-151/hd.

Cull ewes made €80-178/hd, with ewe hoggets €140-190/hd.


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