Factories: 1988 figures highlight rate of sheep decline


File photo
File photo
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Last Saturday's sheep sale marked the 30th anniversary of Mountbellew Mart, which spurred me to look at figures from the late '80s.

And you can clearly see why some people in the sheep trade remain so militant on factory prices.

On Saturday at Mountbellew, the large number of stag ewes present met a brisk trade, with prices ranging from €85-127/hd.

Prices on the lamb side included 15 at 38.5kg selling for €100/hd, seven 45kg ewe lambs making €108/hd, and five 45.5kg ram lambs making €103/hd.

Stores ranged from €85-127/hd.

CSO figures for July 1988 show 30-39kg sheep averaging, in euro, €57.10/hd; 40-49kgs averaged €63.40/hd, with 50-59kgs averaging €71.84/hd.

The CSO office were not able to give a breakdown of agricultural diesel prices but they did have an average price for all auto diesel sold in July 1988 - 57c/litre. The most recent figure for this year is to the end of April, €1.353/l.

So in July 1988, a mid-weight ewe lamb would have bought you 111.22 litres of diesel; this year, you'd get just shy of 80 litres.

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And that's the point, costs.

As with any business, profits in the sheep trade are driven to some degree by efficiencies, but the consumer, the supermarket and the processor have a responsibility to return a proper market margin to the primary producer - or risk losing that producer for ever.

And if you lose that producer, Europe will end up hoping they can get supplies elsewhere.


Is that what the European housewife wants? Is that why European taxpayers have pumped billions into farm/food subsidies? No, it is not.

That is why the ICSA's Sean McNamara led the protest at Kepak Athleague last week, and why Hugh Doyle and the Beef Plan Movement are protesting in Dublin tomorrow.

The market remains under pressure.

Both ICM plants dropped their official quote for lamb yesterday by 5c/kg to €4.90+10c/kg QA, while Kildare Chilling and Moyvalley held steady on a base of €5.00/kg.

Dawn Ballyhaunis and Kepak Athleague were not willing to quote.

Cull ewes remained unchanged at €2.70/kg in Kildare, Camolin and Navan.

The IFA's Sean Dennehy said farmers were resisting the lower loss-making price quotes from the factories, who are having to pay €5.00 to €5.10/kg to get lambs.

Sean McNamara reported similar prices but he did say that some groups had got a top price of €5.25/kg for lamb.

All in all, the trade continues to flatline.

And to really underline where we are now in relation to 1988, as you sup your next pint of Guinness to ease the pain, remember that it cost just €1.80 back then.




Easier numbers, strong demand from factories for heavier sheep, and farmer interest in stores helped lift prices by €2-3/hd. Lambs over 45kg sold from €100-106/hd, with 40-44kg lambs making €88-101/hd. Stores over 35kg sold from €75-92/hd, with lighter lots selling from €68-82/hd. Ewe lambs sold to a top of €106/hd, with breeding ewes making from €125 and ewe hoggets up to €160/hd.

Maam Cross

Lambs averaged €65/hd, with seven 39kg Suffolk lambs making €87/hd. Hoggets averaged €86/hd. Ewes with lambs at foot averaged €123/hd, while two ewes with four Suffolk lambs at foot changed hands at €180/hd.


Store lamb turnout was up but trade overall remained steady: 40-50kg lambs sold from €97-105/hd, with 40-45kg lambs making €85-96/hd. Lighter stores sold from €63-84/hd. Cast ewes ranged from €68-114/hd, while ewes with lambs at foot sold from €135-172/hd.


The large number of stag ewes present met a brisk trade with prices ranging from €85-127/hd. Sample prices on the lamb side saw 15 at 38.5kg sell for €100/hd, seven 45kg ewe lambs made €108/hd, with five 45.5kg ram lambs making €103/hd. Stores ranged from €85-127/hd.


Although numbers were a little easier here than last week, trade was good, with a full clearance. Sample prices show a batch of lambs weighing 51kg claiming the top price, €120/hd, with 53-54kg making €115-116/hd; 46-48kg lambs made from €103-108/hd. Cull ewes sold from €68-116/hd, while a on the breeding side you had two ewes with two lambs at foot coming in at €165/hd, with a three-year-old ewe with twins at foot making €205/hd.


Yesterday saw a large sale of sheep with trade steady to slightly improved in places, especially among the store lambs. 28-33kg lambs sold from €70-82/hd, 33-35kgs made €80-85/hd, with 35-40kgs making €85-90/hd. Heavier lambs of 41-55kgs made €90-106/hd, while 41-55kg ewe lambs made €100-147/hd.

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