Farm Ireland

Saturday 23 March 2019

Martin Coughlan: Is hard border fear moving sheep south?


Sheep mart
Sheep mart
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Later today we may, or we may not, have some clear indication of how Britain intends to proceed with Brexit as MPs gather for another vote on the matter.

I mention Brexit at the outset because there are some who believe the current influx of lamb from the North is a side effect of the economic uncertainty that Westminster's dithering is causing.

ICSA's Sean McNamara, while not directly citing Brexit, hints that the possibility of a hard border is causing greater numbers than normal to come south earlier.

"Sheep from across the Border have always been brought down here, but the larger numbers are getting out of hand."

He also states the factories are taking advantage of these uncertain times to undermine the price in the Republic.

"As far as we can see, it's another ploy to keep heavier lambs from the south out and keep prices down.

"Factories are doing exactly as they please and showing a complete lack of respect for both the producer and the consumer," the ICSA man said.

Official quotes remain as they were last week for lambs/hoggets with the general run on our price table being €5.00/kg plus various quality assurance bonuses.

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This is translating into €5.30-5.40/kg with the higher price going to groups. Cull ewes also don't see much in the way of price movement with quotes on our table not getting above €2.60/kg with the general consensus being that €2.70-2.80/kg is where prices are. Kildare Chilling were again unable to furnish a quote for either ewes or lambs. Moyvalley told me they have a number of contracts for early 2019 lamb, quoting €7.00/kg.

This time last year, up to €6.00/kg was being quoted by factories for lamb - a fact that had me fielding a number of calls yesterday from some farmers with keen memories. Apart from discussions on when prices might improve, two callers were very annoyed that the farm organisations seemed to have taken their eyes off the ball in relation to sheep prices, quoting prices as high as €6.15-6.20/kg as having been paid 12 months ago.

When you look back at what cull ewes were making a year ago, you realise current ewe prices are just 30-40c/kg behind that. Compare the year-on-year €1/kg less that this year's lamb/hoggets are making, I wonder is anyone fit to challenge the factories on price?

Given the day that's it in it; would a hard border be such a bad thing for the Republic's sheep farmers given the claims that larger numbers of sheep are coming south?

1 Tullow

Numbers were less here which probably helped heavy hoggets improve by €5-6/hd. Hoggets over 50kg sold from €124-132/hd, while lighter types from 40-50kg sold from €114-124/hd with those in the 37-42kg range making from €95-105/hd. Cast ewes sold to a top of €132/hd. In-lamb ewes sold from €140-175/hd while those with twins at foot making €195-240 with single ewes and lambs making from €140-180/hd.

2 Blessington

Trade was described as being similar to last week for all classes with butcher-type hoggets selling from €120-123/hd or €70-73/hd over the €/kg. Factory hoggets sold from €90-121/hd or €64-70/hd over the €/kg. Fat ewes made from €100-110/hd with feeding ewes making from €70-100/hd. In-lamb ewes made €180-205/hd.

3 Ennis

The story here was a repetition of the rest of the country with limited numbers and steady demand all of which led your hogget to a top of €133/hd or €75/hd over the €/kg. Ewes with lambs at foot also went on strongly with the top call coming at €260/hd.

4 Tuam

Lambs sold to a top of €80/hd with the €/kg as 52kg made €132/hd or €2.52/kg. Other samples saw 60kg sell for €128/hd or €2.13/kg. Among the breeding sheep, the best of the lambs at foot saw a top call of €196/hd. Old ewes made up to €150/hd.

5 Headford

Hoggets sold from €60-129/hd or from €1.33-2.34/kg here with that top call going to a batch of 59kg lambs. Looking further down the sheet you find 47kg at €110/hd, 46.5kg at €105/hd and 36kg in store section making €77/hd. Cull ewes made €50-95/hd. On the breeding side, ewes with lambs at foot and those ewes in-lambs saw the same top price, €164/hd.

6 Mountbellew

Numbers were similar to the previous week here. Hoggets were a shade easier while the trade for in-lamb ewes or those with lambs at foot improved. Sample price among the hoggets included 57.7kg making €120/hd, 48kg ewe hoggets making €109/hd while a batch of ten 51.4kg wether hoggets sold for €113/hd. Stag ewes sold from €78-120/hd with heavier lots much in demand. On the breeding side, samples saw two second crop ewes with twins fetch €160/hd while for second crop ewes with twin lambs at foot saw the hammer fall at €235/hd.

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