Lamb Prices: Factories blame Brexit fears for price woes

Photo Brian Farrell
Photo Brian Farrell
Sean Dennehy
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

The possibility of a hard Brexit at the end of the month is impacting the trade now, according to sheep factories.

With the October 31 deadline looming and little sign of a breakthrough, there are predictions within the UK sector that its sheepmeat export trade could be almost wiped out.

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With this cloud hanging over UK sheep farmers, they have increased kill numbers, according to factories here.

Figures from the UK suggest 37,000 carcasses a week that are usually sent to Europe could end up with no home come November, flooding the UK home market and pulling down the price of lamb.

That's what the factories here are claiming - they say the backlogs caused by the beef protests are still impacting their ability to process.

"There is still a fair backlog of sheep and we are struggling to get on top of that," said one factory.

Yesterday, most plants were quoting €4.35-4.40 for lambs and €2.40 for ewes.

Meanwhile, the wet weather in Donegal is pushing many farmers to sell stock at the moment, both sheep and cattle, according to Moyvalley Meats.

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However, it says there is sluggish demand in France for lamb at the moment.

Another factory said that Mayo is particularly plentiful when it comes to ewe and lamb supplies, with "people ringing me who should not be ringing me" looking to offload sheep.

IFA sheep chairman Sean Dennehy said lamb prices are at the lowest levels they have been for several years.


He said the relentless price pressure from factories is severely undermining confidence in a very vulnerable sector and must stop.

He said IFA would be meeting with lamb processors and Meat Industry Ireland to demand an immediate price increase and stability for the sector.

Mr Dennehy added that farmers should strongly reject the lower prices offered this week by some factories.

He said the Brexit deadline has resulted in an increase slaughter of lambs in the UK to beat the deadline.

This could impact on supplies after this date and farmers should focus on moving only fit lambs.

He also said some factories are beginning to charge farmers a clipping charge of 30c/sheep.

"Farmers have to present their sheep clean, and then they are charged this fee too," he said.

However, one factory said there were issues of dirty sheep and warned such sheep would be sent home.

The week ending September 29 saw lamb imports from Northern Ireland total 7,257 head bringing exports for the year to 221,785, down 10.5pc from 247,773 imported in the same period in 2018.


Maam Cross

There was a full yard of sheep here last week. Prices for hogget averaged €88/hd with the top call of €114/hd going to a batch of 14 blackfaced ewes. The top call among the lambs saw 12 cross-bred ewes make €80/hd, with the average price for lambs settling at €50/hd. Rams averaged €80/hd, with one Suffolk ram making €252.


Michael Harty reported a quieter trade with 34-37kg lambs selling from €70-78.50/hd and 44-45kg making €84-85.50/hd. Depending on quality, 50kg lambs made €90-94/hd, with a batch of 56kg top-quality lambs selling for €102/hd. With ewe hoggets becoming scarcer, those on sale here made €130-150hd. Cull ewes made €64-90/hd.


Another week, another big sheep sale with heavier sheep meeting a tougher trade. Heavy lambs made €95-98/hd, with prices in the factory section ranging from €86-95/hd. The store trade by contrast was lively, with stores over 35kgs making €70-84/hd while lighter lots sold in the €56-75/hd range. Cheviot X ewe lambs made €80-140/hd, with Cheviot ewe hoggets making €160-210/hd. Suffolk X hoggets sold from €155-202/hd, with Suffolk X ewe lambs making €80-140/hd. Fat ewes made €96-120 with feeder types making €60-94/hd.

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