There is stability and then there is stability. This week's factory price table shows the majority of plants continuing to hold their quotes for lambs, hoggets and culls at last week's levels.
There are exceptions, however. On the cull ewe side, Dawn Ballyhaunis dropped their quote by 10c/kg to €2.50/kg, with Kildare Chilling reducing their offering for culls by 20c/kg to €2.50/kg also but with the added incentive of a 10c/kg quality assured bonus.
On the lamb side, Kepak Athleague are the ones out of step as they moved from €5.45/kg plus a 15c/kg bonus back to €5.35/kg +15c/kg quality bonus yesterday.
These reductions aside, it's as you were for lambs, with both Kildare and Dawn locked on €5.50 +10c/kg quality assurance at the top of our table followed by the two ICM plants on €5.40+10c/k QA, with Kepak bringing up the rear on €5.35/kg+15c/kg QA. As mentioned above both Dawn and Kildare chop the price of their cull ewes to a base of €2.50/kg. However the two ICM plants continue on €2.60/kg for culls, while Kepak remain unchanged on €2.65/kg.
What struck me about those prices when I first saw them was the fact that the largest processor of sheep in the country, the ICM group, had chosen to be forthright with its offering for lambs or culls unlike their opposition.
Granted their base price for lambs lags behind both Dawn and Kildare, but controlling over 40pc of the national kill the temptation had to be there especially as Kepak moved back to a base price of €5.35/kg.
I think what their decision says is that although Muslim festival of Eid al Adha is due to commence on July 30, securing sufficient supplies to cater for it and the trade in general is a bigger priority than trying to squeeze their suppliers on price right at this minute.
With factory prices ahead of expectations, the mart trade continued to see very large numbers presented last week with prices holding firm. Indeed reports from some sales yards indicate that live shippers have succeeded in putting a floor under the price of heavy lambs up to 60kg, with prices reported to be in the region of €2.60/kg which puts your 60kg lamb into €156/hd.
One source in the west told me that so strong is shipping demand that having started out with the intention of buying lambs from 50-60kgs they have now been forced to drop back to 40kg as the supply of heavier lambs dwindles. All of which has put extra pressure on factory buyers.
On the store side mart prices continue to thrive as the better-than-expected factory and shipper trade helps underpin more long-term confidence. This in turn has seen the first of the breeding sales also perform very well.
Sean McNamara of ICSA reports factories as paying €5.50/kg for lamb, with the tops seeing €5.80/kg. Sean Dennehy of IFA was a bit more bullish, however. "Prices are ranging from €5.60/kg to €5.70/kg, with top prices of €5.85/kg including bonuses paid."
On the mart trade, Mr Dennehy said: "Good grass growth is driving farmer demand and store lambs at the marts are a very strong trade This is critical as factory buyers are having to pay premium prices at mart sales to get the numbers they need."
FACTORY Ewes Hoggets Spring Lamb
There was a big influx of sheep here last week with 1,900 on offer. While Eimear McGuinness rated it an excellent sale she commented that in such a large yard of sheep, quality in some places was a bit less as some sellers moved on to second and third draws. All that said only 13 cull ewes remained unsold at the end of proceedings. Sample prices among the lambs included 39.6kgs at €96/hd, 34-35kgs at €80-88/hd, 37.3-37.7kgs at €72-92/hd, with 45kgs ranging from €110-117/hd.
Tom McGuire reported a very large sale with 1,400 sheep on offer. “This would not be the norm for this time of the year,” he told me, pointing out the same sale this time last year had just 800 on offer. The reason? “Better factory prices plus lockdown numbers.” Prices on the day, however, performed very well with 33-34kg store lambs averaging from €85-90/hd, with factory types selling from €95-112/hd, while heavier types sought by butchers reached a high of €122/hd.
Thomas Potterton also reported bigger numbers plus an equally lively sale. Store lambs were so keenly sought-after, at prices from €90-93.50/hd for 35-38kgs that Thomas reckoned some were close to making finished lamb prices. Indeed prices in the 40-45kg section averaged from €95/hd to €112/hd, while cull ewes sold from €75-95/hd. Averaging out the price of factory types at €103/hd, Thomas noted that last year’s average was €13/hd worse off at €90/hd.
Numbers here were similar to the previous week with the trade continuing good to firm across all sections. Sample prices among the lambs included 12 ewe lambs at 35.5kgs that averaged €86/hd, twenty 44.3/kg wether lambs that made €107/hd and seven 49kg ewe lambs at €115/hd. There was a large number of stag ewes on offer with prices averaging from €80-127/hd. On the breeding side, two third-crop ewes with three lambs at foot sold for €222/hd, while one pen of ewe hoggets averaged €190/hd.
There was a full yard of sheep here. Prices moved upwards while demand saw a full clearance. On the prices front, 30-35kg lambs sold from €70-118/hd, with that top price going for 33kg Suffolks. Prices in the 35-40kg bracket ranged from €78-92/hd, with those in the 40-45kg range selling from €92-116/hd. In the 45-50kg section prices averaged from €110-118/hd. Hogget ewes sold to a top of €55/hd, while cast ewes made from €65-125/hd.
There was a significant lift in numbers here last week with 4,000 sheep on offer, a fact that could have impacted negatively at other times. However, this is not your ordinary July. Lambs over 50kgs sold from €116-125/hd, with those from 45-49kgs making from €112-121/hd. In the 40-44kg section, prices averaged from €93-111/hd, while stores under 35kgs sold from €65-85/hd with heavier offerings making €82-100/hd. Heavy cull ewes sold from €120-141/hd, with lighter lots making €65-110/hd. Meanwhile, breeding hoggets ranged from €140-190/hd, with older breeders making from €110/hd to €150/hd.