Sheep factories: Rapid recovery after stores flood system


Photo Brian Farrell
Photo Brian Farrell
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

This week's report reads a bit like a game of two halves. Firstly the mart trade came under pressure last week, leading to lambs being easier by €3-5/hd in many places as strong supplies overloaded the system.

Those increased numbers did include a lot of store lambs, and while they were eventually all mopped up they did give those buying greater choice - and hence the temptation to squeeze the seller.

So as the farmers buying the stores did their best to pull the store price south, the knock-on effect was that factory buyers also seized their opportunity and eased back their prices in tandem.

Even so, by yesterday morning factory prices appeared to be no worse than a week ago.

Kildare Chilling still lead our lamb table on €4.90 + 10c/kg QA, followed by Kepak Athleague on €4.80+5c/kg QA, while the two ICMs and Dawn Ballyhaunis remain at €4.75+10c/kg QA.

So all in all no lasting damage appears to have been done to lamb factory prices.

"Prices eased last week with those increased numbers but they have recovered and I would hope that prices are now on the up across Christmas and into next year," said ICSA's John Brooks.

Traditionally prices edge upwards once the bigger supplies are out of the system after Christmas; also, last spring's harsh weather caused high levels of mortality among the British flock. "Official figures show they endured very high losses last spring, a fact that is playing itself out in the market," Mr Brooks said.

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With cull ewes, it is significant that Dawn Ballyhaunis went from being the best payer last week on €2.70/kg to not offering an official quote yesterday. All other players remain set at €2.60/kg, with Kildare offering a 10c/kg QA.

Prices on the ground stabilised yesterday at €5.00-5.10/kg for lambs with cull ewes recovering to €2.90-3.00/kg.

Play it by ear

Asked whether there is room for movement on price the factory position seems to be 'play it by ear'.

The Department's meat market report for the week ending December 9 shows that 65,125 sheep were slaughtered at sheep export premises, compared to 67,581 in the same week of 2017. Overall slaughterings for 2018 are 2pc up on 2017 at 2,835,848 head.

The figure that matters is that 2pc increase because today's factory price is almost exactly as it was 12 months ago; the fact the market absorbed those extra lambs indicates that the international appetite for Irish lamb grew this year.

Hopefully that demand will also help the cull ewe, who is 10-15c/kg behind where she was this time last year.


1 Delvin

Thomas Potterton reported a full yard of lambs. Those in the 35-40kg bracket sold from €1.92-2.35/kg, with that top price working out at €88/hd for a batch weighing 37.5kg. Above 40kg, the best of the best saw nine lambs at 44kgs making €100/hd or €2.27/kg. At 25-36kg the top price was €80/hd.

The best of the butchers' lambs at 55kg sold for €117/hd. Butcher prices averaged €111.44/hd - last year's sale averaged €110.15.

2 Headford

Lamb prices were back by about €4/hd, leaving the top of the market at €110/hd off of a base of €76/hd. Various batches from 45-47kg achieved €100/hd, with that top call of €110/hd for a batch weighed in at 54kg.

The market for cull ewes saw some improvement, with the top end better by €5-6/hd on overall prices of €60-100/hd.

3 Ballinrobe

Store lambs were €65-91/hd - within €1/hd of the previous week's averages. Ewe lambs made €87-110/hd, which was €2/hd less at the bottom end, but €2/hd more at the top end, than the previous week. Fat ewes were easier by €2/hd at €60-96/hd.

4 Blessington

The stagnation in factory prices also ate into the prices of both butcher and factory lambs - back by about €5/hd. Butchers' lambs made €100-115/hd, with factory lambs making €98-110/hd.

Store lambs sold from €70-95/hd, and although there were plenty of customers, store prices were easier by €3-5/hd also. Cull ewes sold from €100-120/hd, with feeding ewes on €67-97/hd.

5 Corrin

Yesterday's sale saw a good turnout of lambs with prices well maintained. Top call went to a batch of 61kg lambs who sold for €127/hd. Various lots from 50-55kg hit €116/hd, with €114/hd paid for 48kgs.

Among the stores, prices ranged from €58-80/hd on weights of 36-39kg. A small show of cull ewes saw prices range from €82-116/hd.

6 Carnew

Entries continued strong, but prices were down €2-3/hd for both butchers' and factory lambs. The store trade remained strong however.

To the heavier lambs first where those over 50kg averaged €106-115/kg, with that top call going to a batch of 16 weighing 52kg. In the 40-49kg section prices ranged from €101-112/hd, while in the 40-42kg division the range was €80-93/hd.

Looking at the stores 35-39kg lambs sold from €80-93/hd, with lighter ones making €70-83/hd. Cull ewes sold from €45-122/hd.

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