Sheep numbers may be tightening


Hogget Ewes Made 180. Photo Roger Jones.
Hogget Ewes Made 180. Photo Roger Jones.
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

YESTERDAY saw a gradual return to normality after a very difficult seven days where a number of dual-purpose plants - factories that slaughter both sheep and cattle - either closed or were operating on reduced numbers due to the Beef Plan protest.

While Dawn Ballyhaunis and Kepak Athleague were among as hardest hit by the pickets last week, reports yesterday indicated that both plants were fully operational.

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What was clear, however, is that despite farmer optimism that factory sheep prices might be about to return to an upward trajectory the best that could be said yesterday is that prices are no worse than what they were last week.

Given the disruption that there was at those two western plants you could read it that the predicted increase in demand because of the Muslim Eid Al Adha festival must have materialised to some degree.

Prices are what matter however, and yesterday the two ICM plants continued to quote €4.60+10QA (quality assurance), while Kildare's quote of €4.70+10QA also remains unchanged from last week. Despite all three being operational neither Dawn, Kepak or Moyvalley Meats were able to offer an official quote for sheep yesterday.

On the cull ewe front prices also remain unchanged, with both of the ICM plants on €2.70/kg while Kildare Chilling offered €2.70 plus a 10c/kg quality bonus.

After the drama of last week IFA's Sean Dennehy claims thee is a bit more "bite" to the trade with €4.80-4.90/kg generally available for lamb but with bonuses bringing some lambs to €5.00/kg.

Sean McNamara claims that supplies have tightened and that €4.80-5.00/kg is the run of it on the lamb side and that €2.80-3.00/kg continues to sweep up the cull ewes.

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There is evidence that numbers may be tightening with Bord Bia figures showing that at 43,093 head, the kill for the week from July 29 to August 3 is back 7,756 on the same week last year. This leaves the cumulative figure for lamb slaughtering for the year to August 3 at 1,320,464. This is 48,203 less than the same period last year.

It's a similar story with the cull ewes, reduced weekly kills leading to this year's total to the end of the first week of this month at 225,687 being 52,599 behind the same period last year.

The story up North is different with increased slaughtering's seeing this year's total figure to date 201,108 ahead of the same period last year by 6,285 or 3.2pc.

Yet this time last year our price table showed lambs being quoted at €4.90-5.00/kg while deals were being closed at up to €5.15/kg in places. Despite numbers of cull ewes being less than last year their price at €2.70-3.00/kg is exactly the same.

On the mart's front the drive for store lambs by those with grass to graze and increasing numbers of beef men dabbling in the trade continues to be the main talking point. It was not uncommon to have cull ewes and heavier lambs mopped up last week to go grazing at up to €85-100/hd. The numbers on offer at sales are starting to come big and whether the increased choice of those bigger numbers will dampen prices remains to be seen.

Marts Roundup


Michael Lynch reported his sale yesterday as being steady with 40-50kg lambs making from €90-105/hd with heavier 50kg+ groups selling from €101-106/hd. Heavy cull ewes sold from €100-121/hd with lighter lots making from €64-76/hd. Breeding ewes made up to €170/hd.


There was a strong entry of sheep with the trade reported as being stronger by €1-2/hd for all types of lamb, with stores and fats especially strong. Sample prices saw twenty 46kg lambs make €96/hd, with twenty-seven 50kg ram lambs making €108/hd. Among the lighter lambs were seventeen 27kg ram lambs that sold for €60/hd, while seventeen 28kg ewe lambs made €70/hd. Cull ewes sold from €58-102/hd, while the heavier ewes saw a top of €134/hd. Numbers of breeding ewes were also up with hoggets selling from €130-168/hd, while older ewes made from €110-140/hd.


The annual show and sale here last week saw a complete clearance with Cheviot hoggets making up to €150/hd, while Suffolk X ewe lambs sold to €120/hd. Butcher and heavy lamb were €1.00-2.50/hd up on the previous week, with stores better by €2.00-4.00/hd.

Fat ewes were also a strong trade making up to €128/hd, with culls seeing €100/hd in places.


Last week also saw Headford's annual show and sale with again a full clearance. Lambs sold from €66-130/hd, with samples including 45kgs at €120/hd, 43kgs at €112/hd and 37kgs at €82/hd. Cull ewes sold to a top of €101/hd, while on the breeding side ewe hoggets ranged from €130-195/hd, with older ewes making from €96-150/hd.


Stephen Hannon reported the store lamb trade as excellent, with prices generally in and around the €2/kg mark.

The main driver on the store side continues to be grass growth, with some buyers appearing to target lighter lambs in the hope that at €60-70/hd they will in time grow into money. Factory types from 43-44kg averaged €90/hd, with 46kg seeing a top call of €93/hd

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