Sheep farmers feel the squeeze
Anne Harkin, manager of Raphoe mart, has several things on her mind.
She wonders how many sheep are in the system to go to the factories, and she says some farmers have become disillusioned with all the stress around the sheep business.
"Farmers are not happy with how the factories treat them and they don't like the constant volatility in prices," she says.
Unfortunately volatility continues to be name of the game as this week sees yet again factories squeezing the price of lamb.
This week's 10c/kg cut in official quotes by a majority of plants makes it the third week in succession that the processing sector has penalised farmers producing a premium international-standard product.
The one exception to the latest round of cuts on lamb prices is Kepak Athleague, who hold their price at €4.75+5c/kg QA (Quality Assurance), pushing them to the top of our league table on price.
The remainder of the plants quoted on the table below all slice their quotes by 10c/kg, meaning that Kildare Chilling, so long the dominant price setter, slip to second spot with their quote of €4.70+10c/kg QA. Next up come the two ICM plants with their offering of €4.60+10c/kg QA while Dawn Ballyhaunis round off proceedings on €4.60/kg.
On the ewe trade it's largely as you were with the exception of Kepak, who slip their price for culls by 10c/kg to €2.50/kg, bringing them joint-bottom of the table with Dawn.
The two ICMs continue on €2.60/kg for ewes, while Kildare also remained unchanged at €2.60+10c/kg QA.
On the mart side all those recent factory price pulls continue to impact the live trade, with fat lambs reported as being less by €2-5/hd at some sales last week.
On the positive side, marts reported the ewe hoggets trade as improved by up to €20/hd in places.
Prices here for top-end hoggets reached €230/hd while the plainer types, which Ann Harkin said were “a difficult sale”, dipped to €120/hd.
Last week saw another big sale here. However, fat lambs were back between €2-5/hd as buyers factored in recent factory price cuts. The store trade was reported as steady, while breeding hoggets met a lively trade. Butchers’ lambs sold from €100-105/hd, with factory types making €87-100/hd. Store lambs sold from €65-80/hd with fat ewes making €96-125/hd. Feeding ewes made €66-95/hd. Suffolk X breeding hoggets sold from €140-190/hd, with Suffolk X ewe lambs making €90-150/hd.
Trade for hogget ewes improved by €5-20/hd, with two- to three-year-old ewes in particular seeing an improved trade. Among the lambs, top price of the day went to a pen of 15 at 43kg who made €118/hd. Heavy lambs enjoyed a similar trade to previously, with lighter stock picking up the slack as customer demand drove prices. Samples included ten at 51kg whch went for €104/hd, while batches from 46-48kg typically made €100/hd.
4 Maam Cross
This sale saw bigger numbers, with prices in general holding steady for factory blackface and crossbreds. Heavy lambs hit a top of €84/hd, while store lambs sold from €35-50/hd. Blackfaced ewe hoggets averaged €65/hd to a top of €86/hd. Breeding ewes averaged €53/hd to a max of €105/hd for crossbred ewes.
Numbers here were small yesterday, which George Chandler speculated is the result of factories again reducing their quotes. “Men never want to sell into a falling market so they stayed at home,” he said. Lambs saw 48-55kg make from €101-110/kg, while in the store section 35-37kg lambs sold from €73-78/hd with one batch of 20 weighing 46kg making €83/hd. Hogget ewes made from €140-175/hd.
This was a smaller sale than the previous one held at this mart, with prices also seeing pressure due to those recent factory price cuts. The general run of 41-44kg lambs saw prices range from €72-93/hd. In the 35-38kg bracket prices went from €56-67/hd, while among the heavier lambs 48-54kg made €102-111/hd. Cull ewes made from a low of €54/hd to a top of €114/hd.
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