Factories: Brief respite from falling lamb prices is over


Sean McNamara, Chairperson of the ICSA at a recent protest
Sean McNamara, Chairperson of the ICSA at a recent protest
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Our price table yet again contains no information on prices from either Dawn Ballyhaunis or Kepak Athleague prompting one observer to comment that there is "an east-west divide".

Both Dawn and Kepak in the west are going about their business away from the glare of any adverse publicity as they have not provided information on prices.

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I leave Moyvalley out of this discussion as they are a purely domestically-focused company with only limited sheep capacity.

Whatever the answer, very little happens without big business thinking it out well in advance.

As of yesterday, with Kepak, Dawn and Moyvalley off the radar, Kildare dropped their quote for lamb by 10c/kg to €4.60+10c/kg quality assurance, while the two ICM plants remained stationary on €4.50+10c/kg.

Once you turned to cull ewes it was the two ICM plants that turn the price screw onto a lower notch as they wipe 10c/kg off last week's price and turn their quote for ewes back to €2.60/kg. Kildare's quote for culls remains unchanged at €2.70+10c/kg.

It appears the brief respite from falling prices that the Muslim festival of Eid al Adha brought is now over.

Having spoken to factory agents they claim that supplies are plentiful and that last week's factory protests, particularly in the west have caused a considerable bottleneck to develop. Yet the reality varies.

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Yesterday, for example in Corrin/Fermoy, numbers were well back on the previous week with prices performing well as a result. Indeed, 49kg lambs sold for €103/hd.

Meanwhile at Raphoe in Donegal yesterday a very large sale saw ewe lambs selling very well, while springs were reported as being a little easier.

On the factory prices front both IFA and ICSA report that lambs are making from €4.70-4.80/kg, with the very top U grades making €4.90/kg - "once you add in all the bells and whistles" as ICSA's Sean McNamara put it. This time last year lamb quotes slipped to €4.50/kg, a price they held with very little variation until the first week of November.

Sean McNamara has questioned the factories perception of how they expect sheep farmers to stay in business given recent price cuts.

"If this continues farmers just won't be putting their ewes in lamb," he said. He was also critical of the amount of lamb coming down from the North for direct slaughter.

"While we accept that a certain amount of imported lamb is required to meet export demands, the numbers coming in now are only serving to undercut the prices paid to Irish farmers".

Figures from the North's Livestock and Meat Commission shows that two weeks ago northern lamb exports to the Republic for slaughter hit a weekly high of 9,255, that's up 1,571 on the same week in 2018.

Factory imports from Northern Ireland for the same week in 2017 totalled just 5,627.

That 9,255 is up 64pc in two years. No wonder Sean McNamara is worried that those increasing numbers are impacting farmer prices in the Republic. Free trade is great but it can also be your worst enemy, ask any cattle farmer.




The large entry of sheep here saw the lamb trade remain steady with the top price of €104/hd going to a batch weighting 55.2/kg. Other prices of note included 51.2kgs at €103/hd and 48.3/kgs at €92/hd. Ewe lambs were also present in strong numbers, with the best on offer being 46.4kgs that sold for €104/hd. Quality sold well with 43.2kgs for example seeing €100/hd. Trade for cast ewes was lively with prices ranging from €40-105/hd.


Another large entry of sheep saw a very good trade for Suffolk ewe cross lambs and hogget ewes. Fat lambs, stores and cast ewes were also very much in demand.

Butchers lambs sold from €98-102/hd, with factory lambs making €88-98/hd.

Store lambs over 35kgs made from €75-86/hd, while lighter lots sold from €58-77/hd. Fat ewes ranged from €100-131/hd, while feeding ewes made from €66-98/hd. Suffolk cross ewes sold from €145-190/hd, with three- and four-year olds making from €100-147/hd. Suffolk cross ewe lambs made from €90-166/hd.


Are the best of the lambs in county Clare gone? Reports here indicated a slight dip in quality with the top price among the heavy lambs hitting €117/hd. Trade for cull ewes saw the top of the market reach €113/hd.


There were big numbers on show here with lambs reported as being a shade easier. The better sellers were among the 38-43kg lambs, with ewe lambs also a good trade. Sample prices saw eighteen 40.4kg ewe lambs sell for €88/hd, while five ewe lambs at 50.7kgs cracked on to €110/hd.

Moving up a notch however were six 40.8kg ewe lambs that made €104/hd. Trade for stag ewes was a little easier with prices ranging from €74-132/hd. Hogget ewes sold for €140-185/hd, with first crop ewes making €130-155/hd.


There was a smaller sale than previously here yesterday but what it may have lacked in numbers it made up for in bite. 35-36kg lambs averaged €78/hd. Cull ewes sold to a top of €114/hd.

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