Little change on spring lamb prices

Tom Staunton with his pen of lambs at the Mayo Mule & Greyface Group sale in Ballinrobe Photo: Conor McKeown
Tom Staunton with his pen of lambs at the Mayo Mule & Greyface Group sale in Ballinrobe Photo: Conor McKeown
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

THE sheep business at the start of this week could be described as stable but that does nothing to inspire confidence or meaningful profits.

IFA sheep chairman John Lynskey reported that the number of hoggets left in the system is “tightening” with factories paying from €5.20-5.25/kg for them. Spring lamb is between €6.10-€6.25/kg on weight limits of 21kgs.

Given these prices, producers will be looking at their production models and deciding come year’s end whether or not to go down the summer fattening route with its far lower cost base.

Looking at official quotes for hoggets we see Kepak Athleague have raised their official quote by 5c/kg to €4.85+5c/kg bonus while Dawn Ballyhaunis remain on last week’s price of €4.80+5c/kg.

That leaves Kildare Chilling top of the table on hogget prices for the second consecutive week on an unchanged price of €5.00+10ckg bonus. Moyvalley told me they are finished killing hoggets and are moving exclusively to spring lamb.

Kildare drop their price for spring lamb by 5c/kg to €5.90/kg while Moyvalley and Kepak continue on €6.00/kg with Kepak that shade better as they pay a 5c/kg bonus. The price of cull ewes sees both Dawn Ballyhaunis and Kepak remaining unchanged at €2.70-2.80/kg respectively with Kepak paying a bonus of 10c/kg.

The big mover on ewe prices is Kildare Chilling who lift their price 10c/kg to €2.80+10c/kg QA. Prices on the ground for factory ewes are reported as fairly stable between €3.00-3.10/kg.

As prices remain less than spectacular, here are some of the arguments in relation to pricing and other issues.

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From the factories’ point of view it is entirely up to the producer to decide at what point to sell.

They argue that the weight limits used are there as a guide to producers on what the market wants.

It is the farmers’ choice, they argue, should he ignore them and present sheep that are either over or under fleshed.

While these appear logical arguments they are biased in favour of the factories and imply the farmer has complete control. Farmers on the other hand have argued for years that, for stability and good quality, factories should offer base price contracts so that they can work out in advance their cost base.

With no agreement the cycle goes on. Sheep prices rise as numbers fall and they fall when numbers rise.

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