Sheep farmers face rising losses from factory protests

23/5/2019 Ballymote Sheep Mart
Lot Number 200
Type Lambs and Ewes
Amount 3 Lambs 3 Ewes
Price �175
Photo Brian Farrell
23/5/2019 Ballymote Sheep Mart Lot Number 200 Weight Type Lambs and Ewes Amount 3 Lambs 3 Ewes Price �175 Photo Brian Farrell
Sean Dennehy
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Sheep farmers are facing losses of up to €400,000 as a result of the factory protests. Close to 70,000 lambs have backed up on sheep holdings in recent weeks due to the farmer blockades on processing plants.

Both the farm organisations and factories have warned that lamb producers stand to lose significantly as a consequence, with stock moving outside strict weight and fat specifications.

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"As lambs come to maturity quickly, those not slaughtered promptly when fit fall outside fat and weight specifications and fail to secure the premium prices," a spokesman for Kepak said.

"Our suppliers are suffering these very significant financial and farm management challenges," the Kepak spokesman added.

It is estimated that farmers face around €6/hd where lambs fail to meet weight and fat specifications.

With up to 70,000 lambs waiting to be killed on farms this week, losses to farmers could exceed €400,000.

Last week's kill was back almost 16,000hd on the same week in 2018, dropping from 56,000hd to 40,000hd.

Lamb producers in the west found it particularly difficult to get stock killed over the last fortnight following the closure of Dawn Ballyhaunis and Kepak Athleague as a result of the protests.

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Farm leaders admit that there is "a huge level of frustration" among sheep farmers because of the current backlog of finished lambs that has built up on farms.

"The wet ground isn't a problem on sheep farms but the fact that lambs are going out of spec hasn't gone down well," one senior farm representative stated.

"Would the beef men have suffered similar losses for the sheep lads if the shoe was on the other foot?" he asked.

IFA sheep chairman, Sean Dennehy, admitted that the beef protests had a significant impact on the lamb kill.

However, he said this week's planned resumption of killing at sheep plants, particularly in the west, was a welcome development for lamb producers.

"Farmers are worried about the build up of lambs in the system, with the possibility of 50,000 to 70,000 lambs still on farms that would otherwise have been sold. Lambs are going over-fat and overweight". he said

Mr Dennehy said the protests at a number of dual cattle and lamb factories had impacted "unfairly" on farmers who wanted to sell their lambs.

He pointed out that the inability to get lamb killed also had a negative impact on the mart trade in some parts of the country.

INHFA president, Colm O'Donnell, said sheep farmers had displayed solidarity with beef farmers by holding back lambs at a cost to themselves.

Producers of light hill lamb were particularly badly affected, with farmers having to take French lamb prices, or 40c/kg less, for stock that went over 15kgs.

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