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Independent.ie

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Sheep farmers urged to avoid panic-selling

Store lamb prices slump at the marts but demand forecast to pick up next month

9/6/2018 Dowra Mart Sheep Mart
Photo Brian Farrell
9/6/2018 Dowra Mart Sheep Mart Photo Brian Farrell
Farmers have been urged to avoid panic selling. Stock photo

Siobhán English

Farmers are being advised to avoid panic-selling store lambs and, if possible, hold out for the Eid al-Adha Festival next month which could see prices pick up again across the country.

The Islamic festival runs from August 21-25 and demand is expected to improve again in the coming weeks.

This past week has seen prices fall considerably at many marts across the country, with some store lambs (28-32kg) selling from €75 up to €80.

ICSA chairman John Brooks said that while the lack of grass is forcing farmers to sell off stock, farmers need to recognise that overseas demand is strong.

"Lamb is scarce on the continent and live shippers are back in the market here for lamb," he said. "But in order to exploit that, we need support from all shareholders."

Mr Brooks also believes that the Government needs to get behind farmers and offer temporary credit to get them over the drought instead of farmers being forced to prematurely sell off stock to pay bills.

"I actually think it's going to get worse before it gets better," says Tullow Mart manager, Eric Driver, of the situation in the east of the country.

"The volume has been steady here but it's not as good as previous years. The factories are definitely having an effect on prices at the moment," he added.

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Alan Barry, manager of Athenry Mart, said business was average last week, but their demand for store lambs would not be as strong as in other areas.

While he recognised that farmers were keen to offload stock, he said that many buyers were also unwilling to commit due to lack of grass.

Ballinrobe Mart manager Tom Macguire said that prices were down on Wednesday of last week, with good lambs making as little as €65, but it was still early in the year. "The men were there to buy but it's not the best time of year. July was always a poor time here anyway," he commented.

David Quinn of Carnew Mart said that trade is down on 2017 for this time of year. "The east of the country was badly hit during the winter and numbers are well down. Some farmers are holding back but our busy time is only getting going. From next week onwards we should see an improvement. If rain does come there will also be a flurry into August."

EID tagging

Brendan Joyce, vice-president of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA), said that the dry weather is having a serious knock-on effect on both farmers and buyers. "It's like a chicken and egg situation," he said. "The weather will need to change significantly for the grass to grow and for anything to improve."

Meanwhile, speculation was increasing yesterday that the Department of Agriculture is looking at delaying the launch of the EID tagging scheme for sheep. The scheme was due to start on October 1 but has been the subject of intense criticism from farm organisations and sheep farmers who claim it will offer no tangible benefits for farmers.

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