Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Sheep prices sliding further as more plants stop quoting

Michael Harrrington, Castletownbere, Co Cork, tagging his Scotch sheep at Kenmare Mart. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan
Michael Harrrington, Castletownbere, Co Cork, tagging his Scotch sheep at Kenmare Mart. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

The situation as of yesterday morning in relation to factory prices for hogget/lamb was that the downward pressure of recent weeks continues.

Having surrendered their lead over Kildare Chilling last week, Kepak Athleague have held last week’s price of €4.60/kg plus 5c/kg bonus.

I can’t say if they are in front, behind or the same as Kildare Chilling on price this week because Kildare were not in a position to quote officially yesterday. More on this issue later.

The two ICM plants are both at €4.50/kg plus bonuses of 10c/kg which leaves Dawn Ballyhaunis second in the table of highest base prices at €4.55/kg.

Moving to ewe prices, Dawn Ballyhaunis move back from last week’s base of €2.50/kg to €2.45 this week with the two ICM plants on €2.50/kg. Kepak remain slightly ahead at €2.50/kg plus their 5c/kg bonus.

All the plants are on message as regards “difficult trading conditions” and I believe them. However, they have not gone away, orders have to be filled, and sheep have to be found to fill those orders.

The issue is that at a time when prices might realistically be expected to improve, Bord Bia figures show that 8,000 more sheep went through last week than the same week last year and it is these additional numbers that are keeping a lid on the price. Another issue is quality, and it’s one that factories go on about endlessly at times. There is a problem when a mart manager says to me that he is now seeing lambs that are just too heavy and “slobbery”. “You put a 57kg lambs up on the scales and butchers won’t look at them,” this man said.

Following the inability of both ICM plants and Dawn Ballyhaunis to make official hogget /lamb quotes available last week, and with Kildare Chilling unable to do so this week, IFA sheep chairman John Lynskey was fierce in his criticism.

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“They are killing confidence in the trade. And this is not a new thing, it’s an ongoing problem for years,” the IFA man said. “The man with the early lamb is having the confidence sucked out of him. Without official quotes it is difficult for sheep producers to get a handle on prices nationally.”

ICSA’s John Brooks claimed some processing plants are capping lamb payments at €102/hd for 24kg. “That translates factory deals done for lamb at €4.70-4.80/kg into a price at 24kg that is just €4.25/kg,” he said.

For many the reality this week is we are back at last autumn’s prices. The difference is, today’s lamb may have €25-30 worth of nuts eaten, where as last autumn all they got was grass.

Mart Roundup


Trade for hoggets was reported as stronger last week at Ballymote where weights from 35-40kg made from €34-40 over the €/kg while those from 40-45kg came in at from €34-46.50 with the €/kg. Anything above this weight made from €50-55 with their weight. Cull ewes sold from 60-109/kg.


Dowra reported no change in sheep prices from the previous week’s sale with the best of the hoggets making from €90-103/hd. Pens of well-presented stores made from €70 -90/hd while the lighter mountain lamb made from €50-70/hd. Heavy cull ewes made from €75-100/hd, with lighter feeding ewes making from €45-70/hd. Ewes with lambs at foot made from €100-170/hd, while in-lamb ewes made from €100-160/hd.


Thomas Potterton of Delvin mart reported a very good trade for sheep at his sale last week with factory lamb in the 40-45kg bracket making from €2.05-2.08/kg and heavier butchers’ lambs going to a top of €1.94/kg. The highlight though was a dispersal sale of 320 in-lamb ewes which drew buyers from as far away as Kerry and Donegal. These were all 3-5 year old quality ewes in-lamb to Rouge, Charolais and Texels and made from €125-147/hd with the average price being €134/hd.


Sean Leahy reported smaller numbers at Fermoy yesterday but a trade was “a shade dearer”. Good butcher lambs from 50-55kg made from €105-115/hd while lighter lamb in the 45kg bracket made up to €95/hd. “Good sheep in the right weight bracket are in demand,” Sean commented. Also in demand were 35-42kg stores “with not too much flesh” making up to €90/hd.


Kilkenny also reported a small sale yesterday with manager Michael Lynch noting the trade as “maybe a shade better”. As it was factory lambs in the 45-49kg weight bracket made from €90-98/hd, while the heavier butcher types from 50-55kg made from €100-109/hd. The entry of ewes was sold at prices from €60-110/hd.


A similar story to Kilkenny with numbers small and prices steady. Lambs from 50-58kg make from €102-108/hd with lighter lamb making from €86-99/hd.

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