Prices in meltdown as factories turn up the heat


Photo Brian Farrell
Photo Brian Farrell
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Factory prices for sheep continue to melt, like an ice-cream cone in the July heat. Like that ice cream cone, the factories continue to bleed the value out of the farmers' lambs. What official quotes were available yesterday showed lambs to be back another 10-15c/kg.

The last time all the factories on our price table quoted for lamb was June 4. On that date there was a great uniformity with all plants offering €5.50/kg for lamb, while quotes for cull ewes varied from €2.50-2.70/kg.

Yesterday ICM at €4.80+10QA and Moyvalley Meats with a straight €4.85/kg were the only two plants willing to offer a price for lamb. The situation in relation to quotes for cull ewes wasn't a whole pile better.

Allowing that Moyvalley don't deal in ewes and logically never quote, we were left with just Kildare Chilling and the two ICMs, both of whom continue on a base of €2.70/kg with Kildare paying a 10c/kg bonus on top for quality assured lamb.

In essence the strategy at present from the processors appears to be to deny the market place information. With Dawn Ballyhaunis, Kildare Chilling and Kepak Athleague not willing to offer any indication of where their prices for lamb were at yesterday, that means those with lambs to sell going forward are being deliberately deprived of information to help them make an informed decision.

This week's table effectively sees the two ICM plants make up the market. Do I take it that when farmers question Kepak, Kildare and Dawn they will be told we too are only paying €4.80/kg because that's what the two ICM plants have in the paper?

Is the sheep industry heading down the beef road where factories are never willing to have official quotes appear in print?

As to prices that are actually being paid, Sean Dennehy of IFA said prices for lamb are ranging from €4.85/kg to €5.00/kg and some top prices of €5.10/kg including bonuses. Ewes are making a top of €3/kg.

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Sean McNamara of ICSA concurred with his colleague but reckoned supplies might be tightening and that while groups were getting up to €5.10/kg for lamb those selling through factory agents should dig their heels in and insist that anything less than a €5/kg means no lamb.

Sean also pointed out that with cull ewes in his country making up to €2.90/kg, your 40-45kg ewe was coming into €116-130.5/hd whereas your prime 21kg lamb at €4.80-5.00/kg was only averaging €100.80-105/hd.

Did the speed at which the Japanese and Irish officials were able to conclude talks on opening the Japanese sheep meat market to Irish produce have anything to do with the controversy surrounding the extension of a live shipping ban on Australian lamb.

This ban came about due to the loss of 2,000 lambs on a shipment to the Middle East as a result of heat stress.

Meanwhile, in the UK criminal gangs struck at four different locations around Northamptonshire recently. More than 40 sheep were butchered and their carcases removed from the various farms targeted.

The police believe the meat is destined for the black market.

Incidents were reported here last year of individuals privately butchering ewes and lambs and then dumping the offal on farm land.

Ringside sheep


A full clearance was affected with store lambs better by €2/hd, while butcher and factory lambs averaged a €1/hd improvement, with everything else remaining similar to the previous week. Butcher lambs sold from €100-106/hd, with lighter factory lambs making from €95-102/hd. Stores averaged from €70-92/hd. Heavy ewes sold from €110-128/hd, with lighter lots making €75-108/hd.


There was also a full clearance here with numbers, while not overly big, staying relatively steady. The best of the fat lambs saw 52kgs making €110/hd, while cull ewes continued to sell well with Michael Harty noting a top price of €110/hd.

New Ross

Jim Bush reported his sheep trade as being "less positive" than recently with the trade for factory lamb sluggish as prices struggled from averages of €88-100/hd. Cast ewes sold from €130-150/hd, with the lighter ewes making €90-120/hd. Store lambs sold up to €50/hd with their weight, meaning 30kg lamb made €75-77/hd, with 35kgs making up to €85/hd.


Kevin Murphy rated his sale as better for lambs by €2-3/hd, with top prices of €110/hd achieved for 60kgs, and 50kgs coming home at €108/hd. Cull ewes sold to a top of €144/hd, with Kevin reckoning that a 100-110kg well finished Suffolk could make up to €150/hd. Hoggets for breeding sold for €152-175/hd.


Sheep numbers almost doubled last week which, depending on how you look at it, could be a positive sign of confidence or a negative sign of fear in the marketplace. Trade moved on swiftly with store lambs selling from €72-94/hd, and factory lambs making €92-112/hd. Cull ewes sold to a top of €108/hd, while a single ewe with three lambs at foot made a cracking €410.


Ivan Moffitt noted that cattlemen were gradually becoming more common at sheep sales. "Some lads are just sick of the cattle game and with extra grass they are going for the store lamb," Ivan said. €60-80/hd would buy the heft of those stores. Factory lambs sold for €100-105/hd, while cull ewes made €50-100/hd.

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