Factory lamb floating from €6.30-6.40/kg, a mere 20-30c/kg above where prices were this time last year
Those of you who read my articles regularly will know I’ve a liking for classic films and rock music. Yesterday morning, as the factory quotes came in, the 1979 Nick Lowe song Cracking Up came into my head. It’s a song about the world and its stresses, stating at one point: “This ain’t funny no more”.
And that is exactly how sheep farmers now also feel about factory prices. Another week and yet another cut. Actually, it’s worse than that. Factory quotes for lamb fell last Monday by 10-15c/kg, by Wednesday factory bosses had wiped another 20c/kg of their offerings, and yesterday they slashed another 20c/kg off their quotes, a wipeout of 40-55c/kg in a week.
This left quotes for factory lamb yesterday floating from €6.30-6.40/kg, a mere 20-30c/kg above where they were this time last year.
Quotes for cull ewes were also back 10-20c/kg yesterday at €3.30-3.40/kg, putting them exactly in line with their price from this time last year.
Prior to yesterday’s reports from the factories, I had contacted Bord Bia to ask them where the pressure in relation to factory sheep prices was coming from. I received the following reply.
“The reported deadweight lamb price last week was 683c/kg, a decline of 35c/kg from the previous week and representative of the decline in base quotes across the main processors. Deadweight prices have been under some downward pressure following the increased demand around the Eid al-Adha festival.
“While prices have come under pressure they remain ahead of the corresponding week last year when the average price was 550c/kg. The current high price point has impacted retail demand in particular and a seasonal increase in availability of lamb in the EU have contributed to a softening in demand.”
Does the above really explain what’s going on or help ease the pain on sheep farmers who are now producing lamb at a loss?
The ICSA’s Sean McNamara questioned a number of weeks ago how it was that factories were saying they didn’t have the markets, adding that “if this is the case, then Bord Bia have a lot to answer for”.
The reality is that earlier this year lamb prices broke new ground with €8.00/kg and more achieved. At that point, despite increased costs, sheep farmers were making a living yet in just a few months, the song from factories and Bord Bia has changed to one that says the consumer can’t afford lamb. If that’s the case, how come for the week ending July 24 the factories still slaughtered 56,535 sheep? That pushed the total for the year to date to 1,543,767, up 9pc on that date in 2021.
It’s the same old story on the factory and supermarket side, everyone in the chain has a guaranteed margin — everyone, that is, except the producer who has to make do with what’s left over once the big boys have paid their bills and taken their cut.
On the mart side, the trade has also fallen back significantly for factory lambs over the last number of weeks, with both Patsy Smith in Dowra and Kevin Murphy in Enniscorthy, among others, reporting factory lambs as slipping by €10-15/hd last week. Nick Lowe’s summary is apt: “I don’t know how they can carry on. ‘Cause I don’t think it’s funny no more.”
Nelius McAuliffe reported a return to bigger numbers with 1,700 sheep on offer last week. There was very strong demand for stores with quality ewe lambs selling to €3/kg and more on occasion.
The general run of stores was not far off the pace with Nelius averaging their prices as ranging from €2.80-2.90/kg. This saw 37-38kgs selling from €105-110/hd with 30kgs making €90/hd. On the cull ewe side, 65kgs were selling from €90-100/hd.
Yesterday’s sale was a big affair with 1,500 on offer due to the bank holiday. At the time of going to press, the sale had not completed however it would appear, from the returns of those gone through, that as elsewhere the market had softened.
Samples among the lambs included at the heavy end 56kgs at €135/hd. In the mid-section, while some lesser-quality at 44kgs struggled to around the €120/hd mark, better offering averaging 45kgs were selling from €130-131/hd while examples at 39kgs averaged €107-108/hd.
With 1,400 on offer on the bank holiday, Jim Bush reported factory lambs as selling from €108-130/hd with butcher-types making from €130-137/hd. On the store front, prices included 40-41kgs at €95-105/hd with the lighter 30-35kg stores averaging from €85-100/hd.
Trade for cull ewes remained strong with heavy ewes making from €150-190/hd and feeders €90-150/hd. Hogget ewes also performed well with averages of €165-220/hd.
Patsy Smith reported a sharp increase in numbers on Saturday, however those increased numbers combined with further reductions in factory prices saw fat lambs fall back by between €10-15/hd.
Sample prices among those lambs included 17 at 48kgs and 22 at 47kgs, with both lots averaging €134.50/hd. Further selections in the 48-49kg bracket sold to a top of €130/hd. At the heavy end, factory buyers and butchers bid 66kgs to €135/hd with 51kgs topping out at €134/hd.
Demand for forward stores saw 53 at 41.5kgs average €118/hd while in the lighter division 28 36kg lambs sold to €108/hd with 28 at 36kgs averaging €109/hd.
Numbers here were also up last week with trade reported as being steady for both lambs and cast ewes. Top call among the heavy lambs side saw 60kgs sell to €155/hd with 52.5kgs made €145/hd, while 51.7 kgs made up to €149/hd.
In the factory section, 48kgs sold to €139/hd with 44-46kgs seeing tops of €130-135/hd. On the store side, the top call was 117/hd for 39.7kgs with your better 36-37kg store making from €109-110/hd, while various batches from 34.5-35.2kgs sold from €105-106/hd respectively. Cast ewes sold from €60-198/hd.
Numbers here remained steady on Saturday with sample prices on the lamb side seeing 10 at 39kgs making €120/hd with 25 at 37kgs averaging €117/hd, while 12 50.5kg lambs sold to €140/hd.
There was a good trade reported for stag ewes with 17 at 68kgs making €100/hd while in at the heavier end, three 82kg stags clicked €178/hd with four at 90kgs averaging €204/hd.
The small show of also saw good prices with ten Texel cross hoggets and 12 Suffolks both selling to €200/hd.