One-in-five lambs 'free' to factories


File photo
File photo
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

"Factories have sheep-men in a headlock." The words of one sheep farmer yesterday on the current relationship between factories and their suppliers. And "headlock" it is in relation to prices, with quotes for everything from ewes to hoggets to lambs less yesterday than a week ago.

The biggest pull in prices has come in the price of lambs, with Moyvalley collapsing their quote by 40c/kg from €6.50/kg back to €6.10/kg. Next up are Kildare Chilling who dropped their quote for lamb yesterday by 30c/kg to €6/kg plus bonuses.

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While Dawn and the two ICMs only pull their lamb quote by 10c/kg they are jointly the worst payers for lamb at €5.90/kg plus bonuses. The same three players also pulled their quote in unison for hoggets yesterday by 30c/kg to €4.70+10c/kg quality assurance. Kildare Chilling are on €4.90/kg+10c/kg for hoggets, while Kepak offered no quote for hoggets.

Moving to the cull ewes, the two ICM plants stepped their official quote back 10c/kg to €2.60/kg. The only good news, if you can call it that, is Kepak Athleague, while not quoting for hogget they do at least leave their quote for both cull ewes and spring lamb unchanged from last week.

Their offering yesterday for lamb continued at €6.00+15c/kg QA, while their cull ewe quote remained steady at €2.80/kg.

These prices are an awful long way back from where we were 12 months ago when quotes on our price table for lamb ranged from €6.80-7.00/kg, with hogget on €6.00-6.10/kg, while the humble cull ewe was being quoted at €3.00-3.10/kg.

Leaving aside the actual prices paid for lamb, the difference on quotes alone from last year is up to €1.10/kg, or to look at it another way you're almost giving one lamb in five away for nothing this year when compared with last.

IFA sheep chairman Sean Dennehy accused factories of destroying farmer confidence in the trade.

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"The price-cutting tactic of the factories is completely undermining the market and destroying sheep farmers' incomes," he said.

Sean McNamara of ICSA was also of the same opinion, adding that factories were attempting to manipulate market confidence by telling farmers they don't want sheep.

Prices for hoggets on the ground appear to be operating around the €4.70-5.00/kg mark, with group bonuses possibly lifting prices to €5.20-5.30/kg. Spring lambs were reported to be making up to €6.30/kg, with culls ranging from €2.60-2.80/kg.

On the mart front, factory prices and factory buying dominates. While you could argue the trade is steady, the reality is that it's steady at the wrong end.

One exception yesterday was Corrin Mart in Cork where Sean Leahy reckoned springs were up by as much as €15/hd. The reason? Very strong wholesale and butcher demand.

Looking at my various mini mart reports (right), it's obvious that without competition in the marts for heavy sheep, factory buyers appear to have got their ducks all nicely lined up. As I said at the outset, the difference in price from this time last year equates to one lamb in five now going free to the factories. Over to you IFA and ICSA.

Ringside sheep

1. Ennis

There was a strong entry of sheep here. Spring lambs saw a top of €135/hd, with the majority selling for €122-130/hd. Cull ewes sold to a top of €129, while on the breeding side ewes with lambs at foot hit €220/hd.

2. Baltinglass

It was a case of spring lambs taking up the slack here as hogget numbers slipped. Prices for 45-55kg lambs ranged from €110/hd to €120/hd, with those in the 40-45kg bracket selling for €100-108/hd. Lighter lots sold to a top of €90/hd. Ewes with lambs at foot sold for €140-235/hd for groups. Prices on the cast ewe side ranged from €75/hd to €120/hd.

3. Blessington

Prices remained steady for all classes here. Butchers hoggets sold for €124-130/hd, with factory types making €106-135/hd. Store hoggets made €72-102/hd. The spring lamb trade saw a top call of €130/hd, with prices starting from €107/hd. Cull ewes sold for €115-136/hd, while feeding ewes made up to €113/hd.

4. Enniscorthy

Kevin Murphy reckons that the sheep trade has become tougher in recent weeks. "We had a good sale with the general run of lambs selling for €110-124/hd, with the tops making €126/hd. But there's no doubt the trade is tougher than had been expected," Kevin said. Hoggets sold from €120/hd to €124/hd. Heavy cast ewes made from €118/hd to €145/hd, with feeder types making €80-115/hd.

5. Corrin

Sean Leahy expressed himself very satisfied at the conclusion of his sale yesterday. "It was a small tidy sale but very lively," Sean told me. Indeed, it appears to have been all that, given that 50kg lambs were fit to make €148/hd. The general run of lambs ranged from €130/hd to €140/hd, with lighter types making €120-130/hd. Heavy cull ewes sold for €80-124/hd, with lighter types making €40-80/hd. Hogget ewes with one lamb at foot made €130-180/hd.

6. Raphoe

Numbers were also tidy here with the trade holding up well. 45-50kg lambs sold for €125-130/hd, 42-45kgs made €120-125/hd, with 40-42/kg selling for €110-120/hd. Lighter lots in the 36-40kg bracket made from €95/hd to €110/hd. Cull ewes sold for €65-135/hd, while ewes with one lamb at foot made €160-200/hd, while doubles ranged from €200/hd to €265/hd.

Standout sale €148/hd

50kg lambs made €148/hd in Corrin

Standout sale €265/hd

Ewes with twins at foot sold for €265/hd in Raphoe

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