Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Sheep trade could be heading for a tipping point

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

“IN the interest of getting into good quality sheep we’re holding at last week’s price”, was the very clever line I got from one factory buyer this week on sheep quotes.

The underlying message seemed to be that if you don’t hit all the boxes there’s a danger you’ll be taking less.

Official quotes are stuck at last week’s level and run from a base of €4.50 plus 10c/kg bonus at the two ICM plants, to a top of €4.60 plus 10c/kg at Kildare Chilling.

When you tie in my factory man’s “good quality sheep” comment with the fact a good number of mart sales last week were small there is just a hint that supplies may be about to tighten. Official quotes for ewes are fairly uniform, with all plants quoting a base price of €2.50/kg. Bonuses of 5c/kg and 10c/kg are being paid by Kepak Athleague and Kildare Chilling respectively.

Looking at the marts, trade is stable to improved slightly with numbers small in many place. Jonathan O’Sullivan, manager of Cahir Mart, summed up the feelings of many in one sentence: “Sheep are making what they are making and a lot of sellers are disappointed.”

In summary then the trade on the ground is running at about €4.70-4.80 /kg for hoggets, with cull ewes on €2.50-2.80/kg. The ICSA’s John Brooks said prices are down 80c/kg on last year and claimed that the factories were bringing in supplies of additional sheep from Scotland, England or Wales.

“The stock being brought in are heavier live and carcase lamb, the very same product that Irish producers would get penalised for,” he claimed.

The trade for farmers appears to getting to a crunch point, a bit like that ITV game show “Tipping Point” where a small nudge one way or the other could make or break you.

Also Read

Mart Trade


Heavy hogget/lambs made from €1.80/kg to €2.00/kg for 50-61kgs, while lighter types in the 47-49kg weight bracket made €2.04-2.10/kg. Store lamb prices were described as “goodish” with prices in the 29-35kg weight section ranging from €2.23/kg to €2.48/kg. There was a strong trade for ewes with lambs at foot, with prices ranging from €292 to €215 to €182/hd for those with either three, two or one lamb.


The best demand was for store and factory lambs. Heavy hoggets over 50kgs made from €102/hd to €106/hd. The 45-50kg animal sold from €95-104/hd, while the 40-45kg hogget made €88-97/hd. Stores under 40kgs made €74-93/hd, with cast ewes making from €65/hd to €107/hd. In-lamb ewes sold from €120/hd to €157/hd, while ewes with singles at foot made €160-205/hd.


The trade for ewes with lambs at foot was keen with prices here ranging from €150/hd to €242/hd. Once weights pushed past about 52kgs prices for lambs/hoggets began to dip below €2.00/kg, and once you got up to 60kgs you were in the low €1.90s per kg. However, the in-spec and ‘in weight’ lamb of say 46kgs could and did make €2.17/kg. That’s almost exactly €100/hd. Cast ewes made from €95/hd to €111/hd.


The trade was similar to the previous week. Lambs under 40kgs made around €2.00/kg, while those from 41kgs to 44kgs were also moving at the €2.00/kg mark. In the 45-50kg bracket prices ran as high as €2.16/kg, off a strong €2.00/kg base. Cull ewes/stores made €50-80/hd, with heavy lots going to €113/hd. Cull rams sold from €90/hd to €125/hd, while ewes in lamb made €130-142/hd.


A smaller sale saw a slight improvement in prices among heavier lots of ewes and hoggets. Wether hoggets from 40.5-51kgs made €80-98/hd, with ewe hoggets of 39-54kgs making €87-109/hd. Ewes with lambs at foot saw second crops with twins make €191-196/hd. Stag ewes sold from €70/hd to €110/hd.


Ballinrobe bucked the trend of smaller sales and reported increased numbers last week. Prices on the day saw store lambs make €68-93/hd, with fat lambs averaging €88-109/hd. Meanwhile, ewe lambs made €95-117/hd. Fat ewes made €67-100/hd, with breeding ewes selling for €112-148/hd.

For Stories Like This and More
Download the FarmIreland App

Online Editors