Factories: Could lamb supplies finally be tightening?
FACTORY quotes yesterday morning remained unchanged from last week, but there were signs that the trade may be about to move ever so slightly forward.
Firstly, mart numbers ease back last week, albeit the weather was a factor.
Yesterday's reports from New Ross, Corrin and Kilkenny also showed smaller turnouts, with demand for butchers' lambs improved.
While factory lamb prices remain unchanged, there were reports that factory supplies across the west have eased somewhat, leading some in the trade to speculate that supplies in the short term there may tighten.
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Turning to the east of the country the question also being asked by some is whether supplies here will hold or whether, because of the poor weather, a lot of sheep are now being fed indoors thus effectively taking them out of the immediate supply chain.
For now, all factories continue to hold their quotes at last week's levels, meaning Kildare Chilling top our price table for spring lamb on €4.45+10c/kg quality assurance.
It's the same story with the cull ewes - no movement, with Kildare Chilling top of the table on €2.40+10c/kg QA.
IFA sheep chairman Sean Dennehy is also of the opinion that sheep may be getting a bit scarcer.
"Lamb supplies are getting tighter, and factories are paying €4.60/kg to get stock," he claimed.
Doing up the figures and adding in all the bonuses Mr Dennehy reckoned the top of the market is in the region of €4.70-4.75/kg for lamb.
Prices for cull ewes are variously reported to be in and around the €2.40/kg mark by the ICSA, with IFA claiming up to €2.60/kg is available.
ICSA's sheep chair Sean McNamara continues to wonder when someone will take a hand in properly monitoring sheep coming from the North and Scotland.
"ICSA understands that 456,452 sheep were imported from Northern Ireland and Scotland in 2018," he said.
"It's clear to ICSA that factories are using these imports to keep a lid on prices.
"Furthermore, we have no information whether these imported sheep are subject to the same strict rules as local farmers regarding Clean Livestock Policy or indeed, what happens to them post-slaughter.
"This again brings up labelling issues and puts at risk the whole idea of traceability, Origin Green and quality assurance."
The labelling issue is a serious matter.
With no Department of Agriculture or Bord Bia officials on the factory floor, it is understandable that Mr McNamara is concerned.
However, without evidence of irregularities can ICSA continue to claim that traceability, Origin Green and quality assurance are at risk?
A smaller sale due in part at least to the poor weather saw prices firm, with stags and factory lambs improved. Sample prices included ten 53kg ewe lambs at €100/hd, while eight 42.1kg ewes made €88/hd, and seven 58kg wether lambs sold for €101/hd. Stag ewes sold from €60-106/hd. On the breeding side ewe hoggets ranged from €90-190/hd, with first-crop ewes selling from €130-150/hd. Second-crop ewes made €100-140/hd.
Trade here was also described as firm, with butcher-type lambs seeing a top call of €115/hd, and factory lambs selling from €90-100/hd. Trade for cull ewes saw some very strong prices with one group of 15 culls making €115. Top price of the day was €117/hd.
Yesterday saw an increase in numbers here with George Candler reporting "a fast-moving trade" with both butchers and store lambs in demand. That fast-moving trade saw butcher-type lambs sell from €98-106/hd, with factory types making €86-95/hd. Store lambs sold from €68-85/hd, while demand for cull ewes saw a top price of €119/hd being paid off of a €50/hd base.
Numbers here yesterday were back on the previous week; however, it was noticeable that butchers' lambs were up by around €2/kg. Prices for those butcher types ranged from €86-108/hd, with many of those weighing from 51-56kg coming in at around €100-106/hd. On the store side 31-37kgs operated around from €64-65/hd, with some of the quality lighter lots performing very well. Cull ewes sold from €56-106/hd
Jim Bushe reported an improved trade yesterday with heavy lambs making from €99-102/hd, but with €108/hd being the very top of the market. Factory lambs sold from €90-98/hd.
Numbers of lighter stores were smaller than previously, with Jim speculating that farmers had decided not to show stock that were maybe looking a bit worse for the weather. Those that were presented saw the average 30kg store make €57-70/hd, with heavier types selling for €73-89/hd.
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