Lamb trade: 'The outlook, if agents are to be believed, is not good'


Declan Dunne, Roscommon Mart, helps Matty Walsh load up his newly bought load. Brian Farrell
Declan Dunne, Roscommon Mart, helps Matty Walsh load up his newly bought load. Brian Farrell
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

The sheep trade continues to be under pressure.

Both Dawn Ballyhaunis and Kepak Athleague, for the second successive week, are unable to offer quotes for either lambs or cull ewes, while Kildare Chilling's quote for lamb at €5.20+10c/kg quality assurance is back 40c/kg on last week.

Both ICM plants reduce their offers for lamb by 20c/kg to match Kildare on €5.20 plus bonuses, while Moyvalley Meats at €5.30/kg were also 20c/kg down.

The outlook, if agents are to be believed, is not good, with Kildare's representative telling me that his price could well be 10c/kg less as the week goes on.

Increasing supplies are being blamed as well as poorer market returns.

Factory agents I spoke with claimed that some farmers booking in stock were showing up with bigger numbers than had been agreed and this was throwing their procurement books into disarray.

"They are putting the price to their neighbours under pressure," I was told.

The only positive news - if it can be called that - is that both Kildare and the two ICMs have held their quote for cull ewes at €2.70/kg, with Kildare still offering an official 10c/kg bonus.

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Comments from both the ICSA and the IFA indicate that prices yesterday for lamb ranged from €5.40-5.50/kg once you added in any group bonuses etc.

Sean Dennehy of the IFA noted that weight limits were a continuing issue, saying: "Weights need to be moving up to 21.5kg to reflect the season."

Sean McNamara told me that ICSA intend to meet both Bord Bia and representatives from the hotel and vintners' federation in a hope that lamb can become a stable on both pub and hotel menus.

Figures released through Bord Bia show that average lamb prices in the Republic at €5.11c/kg were back 46c/kg up to the end of the first week of June, compared with the same week last year.

The same analysis shows that Northern Irish sheep farmers were in a worse position, with their price having dropped 74c/kg in the same period, from €5.38 to 4.64/kg.

Prices in the UK for that week show a 93c/kg difference from 2018, €6.23 as opposed to this year's €5.30/kg.

The situation in France is more positive, with French lamb reported by Bord Bia as being only 24c/kg worse, €6.27 versus €6.03/kg.

Meanwhile, in Australia prices for early June appear positive as weak supplies have driven farmer returns upwards.

There the first week of this month saw averages for lamb hitting €4.78/kg compared to last year's June price of €4.01/kg.

While sheep factory prices are being pressurised as consumers possibly chose cheaper alternatives, there is a case to be answered as to how sheep farmers can expect to survive when they have no real idea exactly what their produce is worth.

Like in the cattle job there really is no true price transparency, and this should be as big a concern for consumers as it is for those who produce the primary product.



Numbers continue to be steady here, with the trade for lambs a little easier. Stag ewes by comparison met a brisk trade and were up €10/hd, at €90-134/hd. Sample prices among the lambs saw 39.5kg make €95/hd while at the other end 53.4kg sold for €114/hd. The small number of stores on offer sold from €800-89/hd.


The year turns slowly, but it does turn and we are seeing the store trade develop. Here in Co Sligo Ivan Moffit noted that while store numbers are continuing small, they are coming with prices ranging from €60-86/hd. The lamb trade was steady with prices generally €100-115/hd.


Here the story was of sample prices that saw lambs sell from €75-110/hd. Samples included 39kg at €95/hd, 43kg at €104 with 42.5kg making €102/hd while that top price of €110/hd went to a batch that averaged 49kg. The cull ewe trade saw a top call of €90/h.


Trade was reported as being a little easier for lambs, with prices less by €1-2/hd. Cast ewes were lively: heavy ewes sold from €110-128/hd with lighter types making from €75-107/hd. Bucher-type lambs made €115-120/hd, with factory weights selling from €101-115/hd. Store lambs sold from €70-100/hd.


Prices for lambs took a bit of a tumble yesterday with averages reported as being less by €2/hd. Top call among the heavier lambs saw 55.5kg selling for €125/hd with the majority between 50-54kg making €111-122/hd. Lambs from 43-45kg sold from €98-110/hd, with the more storey type in the 37-39.5kg bracket making €80-87/hd. Cull ewes sold from €56-120/hd.


Numbers were up, with prices for lamb remaining steady. Top call among the lambs saw a batch weighing 48.2kg clicking €115/hd while the same price per head also bought some at 51.1kg. Looking down the weights there was 45kg at €107, 43.1kg at €102/hd while a selection from 42.9-40.4kg sold from €90-100/hd. Trade for cast ewes was steady with prices ranging from €65-116/hd.

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