Light at end of tunnel for sheep farmers as prices start to rise


11/4/2019 Loughrea Sheep Mart
Michael Conroy from Headford loads up his newly bought Spring Lamb at Loughrea Mart.
Photo Brian Farrell
11/4/2019 Loughrea Sheep Mart Michael Conroy from Headford loads up his newly bought Spring Lamb at Loughrea Mart. Photo Brian Farrell
Sean McNamara, Chairperson of the ICSA at a recent protest
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Reports from various marts around the country indicate that sheep prices are rising, with factories being forced to follow.

Both Jim Bushe of New Ross and Alan Barry of Athenry noted lambs as being better by up to €8/hd, with cull ewes €10/hd better.

Has this rise translated into better quotes for lambs or cull ewes? The answer was both yes and no. The general consensus is that lambs are becoming scarce due to the fact that a lot of lamb came through the system earlier this year due to very good spring.

Also, reports from the UK indicate that processors there are paying to 22kg, with the general run of lambs making £4.70/kg ( €5.30/kg). With today's Irish quotes down at €5.50-5.60/kg for lamb, would it pay factories to import UK product?

As it is, yesterday Kildare Chilling raised their quote for lamb by 10c/kg to €5.60/kg, with the two ICMs and Dawn Ballyhaunis sticking to last week's €5.50+10c/kg QA.

The story with the cull ewe appears better, with the ICM plants lifting their quote by 20c/kg to €2.70/kg, bringing them in line with Kildare Chilling's quote. Dawn also lift their quote but only by 10c/kg to €2.60/kg.

It's worth noting that Kildare have been on €2.70+bonuses for culls for the last three weeks, while all others were 10-20c/kg off the pace. Reports from across the country indicate a growing demand for culls, with the general run on prices being from €2.70-2.90/kg

None of the plants on our table were in a position to offer a quote for hoggets. While their numbers have almost disappeared, pockets still remain, at around €4.40-4.50/kg. Better prices were paid towards the end of last week 'but that's over now' is the official word.

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There was no word available yesterday on prices from either Moyvalley Meats or Kepak Athleague.

I understand that negotiations between the ICSA and Kepak at the weekend saw some straight talking on factory pricing.

The ICSA's Sean McNamara told me he left Kepak's management in no doubt that any further price cuts would see an immediate ICSA picket placed on the plant. This follows on from the ICSA's picket of ICM's plant at Camolin three weeks ago.

Yesterday Mr McNamara was urging sheep farmers not to take less than €5.55/kg as a base for lamb

"Lambs are scarce on the ground. Farmers are being offered a base price of €5.40 but by shopping around, it is not that hard to get €5.70 when you add on the bonus," he said.

"In fact, some specialist suppliers are getting €5.80 including bonus."

Sean Dennehy of the IFA was also keen to emphasise that factories are keen for supplies. He pointed to lower numbers of available stock, saying that with promotions coming on stream, "supermarkets will drive demand". All in all, the general feeling is that with supplies appearing to be tighter and with marts offering a barometer on prices, the outlook is the equivalent of 'showery with the possibility of sun'.



1 Dingle

Neilius McAuliffe reported a "handy sale" with 43kg springs selling to €108/hd, while 45kg lamb saw a top of €110/hd. On the butcher side 50kgs sold up to €124/hd. Cull ewes of 65-75kg made €65-75/hd. Better ewes pushed on a bit, with 70kg making €83/hd.

2 New Ross

Yesterday's sale here saw both lambs and cull ewes move forward in price. Jim Bushe reckoned lambs were better by €2-4/hd, with cull ewes up by €10/hd. The best of the spring lambs saw 39.5kgs making €111/hd, with 40-42kg ranging from €105 to €112. In the 44-47kg section prices moved between €100-115/hd. Heavy cull ewes made €120-145/hd, with lighter ewes seeing €80-120/hd. Store lambs from 30-37kg sold for €77-92/hd.

3 Athenry

Alan Barry reported "a much-improved trade" with spring lambs up by as much as €8/hd and cull ewes €10/hd better. 40kg lambs sold for €105-106/hd, while groups of stores from 34-36kg made €81-90/hd. The cull ewe trade cracked on to a top of €138/hd from a base of €131/hd.

4 Carnew

Reducing numbers and a certain "anxiousness" helped the trade onto a higher ground by around €5-6/hd. With lambs, 45-48kg sold from €115-120/hd, with 42-44kgs making €110-115/hd; 38-40kg lambs sold for €98-108/hd, with lighter types making €77-92/hd. Cull ewes met a strong trade, selling for €65-143/hd. Ewes with lambs at foot made €140-210/hd.

5 Ennis

Numbers were back but prices remained steady. The general run of spring lamb sold from €110-115/hd, with the top call seeing a batch of 46kg lambs selling for €121/hd. Ewes with lambs at foot made up to €160/hd. The top cull ewes made €94/hd.

6 Headford

Spring lambs sold for €103-117/hd. That top €117/hd was given for a batch of lambs averaging 45kg; there were 43kg at €112/hd, 40kg at €103/hd and 48kgs at €114/hd. Ewes with lambs at foot saw doubles reach €276/hd, while cull ewes made up to €75/hd.

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