Shortage of supply drives lamb prices upwards

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

"As is the general rule of thumb, the livestock trade is dictated by supply and demand. With numbers of sheep on offer remaining small, prices have lifted in response, resulting in many buyers not being able to fill their orders."

This is George Candler's summation of his sheep sale in Kilkenny yesterday. It's a summary that applies to all marts in the last week, and with very little tweaking you could also apply it this week to the factory trade.

The tightening of supplies which saw prices lift by 10c/kg last week continues, with prices for lamb at most plants up by a further 5-10c/kg. This week's price table (below) sees the two ICM plants raise their quote for lamb by 5c/kg to €4.80+10c/kg quality assurance, while Kildare Chilling's price is better by 10c/kg at €4.90+10c/kg QA.

Neither Dawn Ballyhaunis nor Moyvalley Meats quoted for our table last week but both return this week. Moyvalley crack on to a straight €4.90/kg for lambs, while Dawn quoted €4.80+10c/kg QA yesterday morning.

The trade for cull ewes, which up to two weeks ago showed no signs of life, has shaken itself awake in the last 14 days to the point where yesterday all plants were quoting a base of €2.60/kg, which in most cases is 10c/kg ahead of where they were last week and 20c/kg ahead of their ewe price from two weeks ago.

Kildare Chilling edge the lead from the pack with an additional 10c/kg QA.

Most plants appeared to be offering deals in and around the €5.00-5.10/kg mark yesterday, but IFA national sheep chairman Sean Dennehy said there is a major positive shift in the lamb trade this week and that some factories were paying €5.15/kg.

John Brooks of ICSA noted that factories have started "tricking around with weight limits and prices" as they attempt to hold back the tide.

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"Some plants are paying €5/kg on weights up to 22.5kg, while others are giving more, but slipping the weight to 22kg," he said.

Mr Dennehy noted that there will be a convergence of the dates of Easter with Ramadan for the next five years from 2019: there will only be one to two weeks between the two.

He reckons this alignment should have significant price implications for those in the sheep business.

The last word goes to Mr Candler: "It does appear that the sheep trade will remain firm. If only we could say the same thing about the cattle trade."




1 Maam Cross

Numbers here were described as "tidy", so the resulting full clearance on the back of an improving factory trade was hardly a surprise. Prices for ram lambs saw the top end in the €72-74/hd bracket, while on the cull side, mountain ewes sold for €26-32/hd. Manager Brid Bourke reckoned sheep farmers were not in a bad place as 2018 begins to close out. "Any day sellers are happy tells me there's more money knocking around" was Brid's verdict.

2 Dowra

This was another smaller sale, with Patsy Smith also reporting a good share of happy sellers as prices across all classes moved up by €3-5/hd. The tops of the store lambs sold for €70-90/hd, with lighter pens of stores making €55-75/hd. Factory lambs sold for €90-108/hd. Heavy cull ewes made €70-100/hd, while feeding ewes sold from €45/hd to a top of €70/hd.

3 Ballinrobe

The turnout of sheep here was described as "holding up very well". Store lambs sold for €66-90/hd, with ewe lambs making €87-110/hd. Fat ewes sold for €66-94/hd.

4 Baltinglass

Butcher and factory lambs were reported as being better by €3-6/hd here, with a knock-on effect among stores, who improved by €3-5/hd. Sample lamb prices include 55kg at €110/hd, 44-47kg at €97-108/hd, and 35-41kg at €81-96/hd. Cast ewes made €50-129/hd.

5 Roscommon

Numbers were steady here with the trade pushing upwards. Butcher-type lambs saw a top price of €112 for 50.7kg, with 56.3kg pushing to €111/hd. Batches weighing 49.3-53.6kg made €102-108/hd. Trade for store lambs saw 40-42kgs making €86-89/hd, while among the lighter offerings 36.3kg made €67.50/hd with 37.5kg making €78/hd. Cast ewes sold for €55-110/hd.

6 Mountbellew

Although numbers might be winding down there are still enough sheep in the system to make the trip here worthwhile. Prices for heavy lambs peaked at €112/hd for 51.3kg as the trade firmed. Other prices of note for heavier lambs included €110/hd paid for 52.5kg. Meanwhile, there was further heavy action in the 40-46kg section, with prices in general €74-105/hd.

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