Farm Ireland

Tuesday 19 February 2019

'Dirty' sheep saga takes another twist as prices rise

18/11/2017.Mountbellew Sheep Mart, Co. Galway.
Mountbellew Mart manager, Alfie Loftus, gets some help from his dog Lassie, working the yard before Saturday's sales.
Photo Brian Farrell
18/11/2017.Mountbellew Sheep Mart, Co. Galway. Mountbellew Mart manager, Alfie Loftus, gets some help from his dog Lassie, working the yard before Saturday's sales. Photo Brian Farrell
Minister Michael Creed
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Changing circumstances sometimes make for strange alliances.

Yesterday morning, John Brooks, the ICSA's sheep chairman and frequent critic of factory policies, sided with his erstwhile adversaries and urged Minister Michael Creed to intervene directly in the ongoing 'dirty' sheep controversy. His move came after Kepak Athleague was forced to close its doors for a time this week.

"At this point nothing short of an intervention from Minister Michael Creed will suffice," said Mr Brooks, following numbers of sheep sent for clipping.

"This is an absolute disaster for our important sheep export sector. It is clear that what has been going on in recent days is total gridlock which no business could sustain. This move by Kepak must be taken seriously and the Clean Livestock Policy (CLP) will have to be modified without delay."

Kepak were not in a position to comment on developments but it's clear that it's not good when a major employer is forced to cease trading, even for a short time

Later reports indicated the plant resumed killing on Monday afternoon. However the question remains as to how this ongoing problem is going to solved.

On the price front all factories raised their quotes by 10c/kg. It's unclear whether this is due to genuine market forces or the influence of Agriculture Department enforcement of the clean sheep policy, with factories being forced to quote for additional numbers just to cover their basic requirements.

Kildare Chilling lead the quotes table with €5.10+10c/kg quality assurance for hoggets with Kepak Athleague, despite yesterday's difficulties, battling into second place on €5.10+5c/kg quality payment.

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Next up come the two ICM plants and Dawn Ballyhaunis all on a base of €5.00/kg with the only difference being the two ICMs paying a 10c/kg bonus versus Dawn's 5c/kg.

On the ground, both the IFA and ICSA are reporting that prices are now ranging from €5.30-5.50/kg for hoggets.

On the cull ewe front, official quotes remain largely static at between €2.80-2.90/kg although Kildare Chilling do raise last week's quote of €2.80/kg plus 10ckg bonus to €2.90+10c/kg. On the ground prices for cull ewes appear to be running from €3.00-3.10/kg.

Returning to the clean sheep policy controversy, Meat Industry Ireland commented yesterday.

"The one clear thing we need to ensure is consistency in application of it.

"It is essential for the overall sector that we have sheep coming in as clean as possible so that plants can address them hygienically and produce a safe product," said Cormac Healy.

Marts Roundup


TRADE picked up for stag ewes as prices hit a top of €115/hd off of an €80/hd base. Prices for factory hoggets remained firm with samples including nine at 52.4kg making €105/hd while top of the pile was a batch of ten 51.8kgs ewe hoggets which made €114/hd.

The trade for lighter stock was also firm with batches of 42-47kg hoggets selling from €93-101/hd. First and second crop ewes with singles at foot made from €157-170/hd


Hoggets were a harder sell than previously. That said, the top price of the day was a very respectable €115/hd paid for a batch at 53kg. Cull ewes sold from €64-108/hd.


Tightening numbers saw fat hoggets improve from the previous week’s sale by €2-4/hd with cast ewes reported as “very lively”. Butchers hoggets made from €114-118/hd with factory types making from €105-114/hd.

The store trade saw prices range from €77-103/hd, while fat ewes sold from €110-130/hd. Feeding ewes made from €77-110/hd. In-lamb ewes made from €120-175/hd.


Heavy lambs were up by as much as €3-5/hd while all other classes also moved up €2-3/hd. Heavy 50kg+ lamb sold from €116-123/hd with 45-49kg making from €105-119/hd.

Store lambs over 35kg made from €85-104/hd while lighter stores sold from €77-90/hd. Heavy cull ewes made from €115-134/hd with lighter culls selling to a top of €98/hd. In-lamb ewes made from €104-165/hd while ewes with singles at foot made from €140-177/hd.


Factory and farmer buyers pushed on the price of their respective interests. This saw factory hoggets make from €90-112/hd while forward store hoggets sold from €80-95/hd. Lighter hoggets suitable for feeding made from €60-80/hd.

Fat ewes sold from €90-130/hd with feeding ewes making from 450-80/hd. In lamb ewes sold from €120-150/hd with older in lamb ewes making from €80-120/hd.


Blackfaced and blackfaced crossed lambs sold to a top of €114/hd. The average price on the day worked out at €65/hd.

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