Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Sheep trade: Processors are playing a waiting game

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

Unlike my beef factory report where I describe factory agents as ‘driving for the line’ in relation to price momentum, their sheep counterparts are ‘stuck in a scrum on the 22’.

Okay maybe it isn’t exactly a scrum but prices for hogget were in effect stagnant yesterday at last week’s general run of €4.90/kg plus bonuses as factory bosses and agents continued to probe for farmer weakness and opposing factory indecision.

What I mean is that despite Easter being the bare four weeks away , factories are playing the game of waiting and seeing how supplies develop rather than actively trying to source suitable numbers in advance, which means as this week opened the ‘on the ground price’ for hogget hasn’t moved off of €510-5.15kg according to John Lynskey of IFA.

“It is disappointing that the price is not moving (especially as) Department figures show that we have processed an additional 53,955 sheep to date this year, meaning that any surplus or overhang is now gone out of the system,” Mr Lynskey said.

The IFA man did note however that cull ewes had edged stronger at prices from €3.00-3.20/kg. That said, all factories with an interest in cull ewes hold their official quotes at last week’s levels of €2.80/kg, with Kildare Chilling edging out Kepak Athleague as price leader with their 10c/kg quality bonus giving them a 5c/kg advantage over the Roscommon plant at €2.80+10QA.

There is, however, one exception to all this stability, Dawn Ballyhaunis. With the pressure on in rugby terms, instead of launching an up and under Garryowen in the hope of not losing ground Dawn Ballyhaunis drop the ball back 10c/kg thus leaving their cull ewe price on €2.70/kg.

The line from the factories is that trade is very difficult because of pressure from increased sheep numbers in the UK. This is apparently manifesting itself not so much in actual numbers of British sheep coming onto the French market but in the fact French buyers are looking at British lamb prices and telling Irish suppliers they can “buy cheaper in England” in the hope of squeezing prices. It’s an old game and one no doubt that our boys can manage.

Returning to actual quotes, the league table stays exactly as it was last week, with Kepak Athleague edging it on a base of €4.95/kg from Kildare Chilling who remain on a base of €4.92/kg.

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Positions are reversed, however, when you add their various bonuses, giving Kildare the edge with their 10c/kg bonus at €5.02/kg, while Kepak slip to second on €5.00/kg when you add in their 5c/kg bonus.

The two ICM plants continue on a base of €4.90/kg but match Kepak Athleague on €5.00/kg when their 10c/kg bonus is added. Dawn Ballyhaunis bring up the rear on €4.90 plus 5/c for hoggets.

Marts Roundup


NUMBERS at Kilkenny yesterday remained small resulting in a very similar trade to last week. Butchers hoggets from 52-62kgs sold from €110-117/hd or from €1.90-2.15/kg. Factory hoggets made from €92-112/hd or from €2.24-2.20/kg while cull ewes hit €130/hd off a €61/hd base. Among the breeding sheep ewes with lambs at foot made from €170-205/hd.


Sheep were steady at Dowra on Saturday with the best of the hoggets making from €100-110/hd. Good forward stores made from €80-100/hd with lighter mountain stores making from €55-80/hd. Heavy cull ewes made from €80-110/hd with feeding ewes on €55-80/hd. In lamb ewes made from €80-130/hd with a smaller number of ewes with lambs at foot making from €120-180/hd.


Michael Harty of Roscrea considered his sale on Wednesday for factory and butcher types “a shade easier perhaps”. Butchers’ lambs made from €110-112/hd with factory lambs on €90-100/hd while cull ewes sold from to a top of €110/hd. What wasn’t “easier” however were ewes with lambs at foot with Michael commenting that they got “a great lift” as buyers pushed young ewes with doubles at foot up to €282/hd on the strength of improving weather.


Joe Wynne of Headford mart no different to Michael Harty of Roscrea also thought the trade “a little bit back”. With rain falling heavily the butcher trade still managed to raise a gallop - not unlike Irish winners at Cheltenham - with prices from €105-115/hd. Factory lamb made up to €110/hd while cull ewes made from €85-106/hd.


Castleblayney’s sheep sale on Saturday saw cull ewes from 70-77kgs make from €74.50-96/h, with one 94g ewe making €131 while 45-52 horned ewes sold from €49-61/hd. Store lambs make from €54-57/hd for 26-27kgs with fat lambs from 46-64kgs making from €93-114/hd. Hoggets with two lambs at foot made up to €200/hd while horned ewes also with twins at foot made from €110-140/hd. Three year old ewes with singles at foot saw €130/hd while older horned ewes with singles at foot made €80/hd

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