Factories still ploughing into sheep prices
It's the week of the Ploughing and with the factories dropping their prices for both lamb and cull ewes by 5-10c/kg, the obvious pun is that processors continue to plough down sheep prices.
It's the week of the Ploughing and with the factories dropping their prices for both lamb and cull ewes by 5-10c/kg, the obvious pun is that processors continue to plough down sheep prices.
Traditionally Ploughing week can see cattle numbers easing back slightly. However, with the kill a fortnight ago running at almost 38,000hd, any fall-off would have to be pretty dramatic to make...
As mart prices tumbled over the last six weeks everyone associated with the business has wondered where the bottom might be.
LAST week we reported on the factories’ push on prices — for those of you with stock to sell you known that situation still prevails.
The message from the latest ringside figures is that the trade remains under pressure. The tables below show that every section on both the bullock and heifer table fell, bar the poorer-quality 600kg+...
My first job this Tuesday morning is to extend my congratulations to my mother's county, Limerick on Sunday's All Ireland success.
The factory assault on sheep prices resumed this week. Factory quotes for lamb this week range from €4.80/kg to €4.90/kg, before bonus payments, which is from 5-10c/kg less than last week. Quotes for cull ewes remain unchanged at all plants except the two ICM's which clipped their quote by 10c/kg.
The Ringside figures from last week appear to show a mart trade for bullocks that had weakened slightly with overall average losses of between 2-4c/kg.
Last week saw the mart trade continue the recovery in prices that began two weeks ago. All average prices on both the bullock and heifer tables are up, and some of them quite significantly.
It would be really nice if I could tie the classic hurling that was played over the weekend to some positive comments about the direction of factory cattle prices - but I can't.
Farmers have been forced to sell shares and equities as a result of the crippling cost of the current fodder crisis.
Figures supplied by the factories to the Department of Agriculture for last week show the overall kill to be 36,373. Interestingly, however, they also reveal that average cull cow prices, while...
The best that can be said about factory lamb prices this week is that not all factories chose to reduce their official quotes.
I had a conversation last weekend with a chef in a city hotel which told me a lot about how non-farming people can perceive issues in the farming sector.
My wife's niece and her London-born husband came for dinner on Sunday, and while the various family dramas were discussed, myself and the Englishman settled in after the meal to watch the All Ireland football final.
Figures, like facts, are funny things: taken out of context you can get the wrong message.
Last weekend saw a televised festival of faith as Pope Francis arrived. There was great fanfare and spectacle. You couldn't but be moved by the singing and the outpouring of emotion.
All factory lamb quotes were back 10-15c/kg this week, with ewes also back 10c/kg at some plants.
Many beef farmers have decided against finishing cattle this winter and are opting to sell their valuable fodder stocks instead.
The short version of this week's sheep price report is no news is good news, meaning there was no movement either up or down on factory quotes yesterday morning.
THERE are signs of positive movement in the factory this week.
Stability seems to be returning to the trade and prices appear to have steadied at last. Bullock quotes range from €3.85-3.90/kg, with heifers on €3.95-4.00/kg.
The factories have started to pursue supplies to fill contracts associated with the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival which starts on August 21.
The sheep farmers of Ireland truly are a different breed. Not unlike the Limerick hurlers against Cork on Sunday, they have made a huge turnaround. They have succeeded over the weekend where their cattle farming cousins have failed.
FARM leaders are again questioning the commitment of sheep processors to the sector.
Fear of what may lie ahead as regards the continuing drought and fodder shortages is beginning to stalk the thinking of the farming community. The effects of this fear became evident at marts last week where some with cattle to sell appeared to heave a sigh of relief as the hammer finally fell.
The pressure on factory cattle prices continues to mount. Figures from Bord Bia show that at 9,038 for the week ending June 30, the number of cull cows going into the food chain are up almost 20pc on the same week in 2017.
ICSA sheep chair John Brooks was in top form yesterday with some barbed comments directed at the processing sector as he discussed falling sheep prices.
While sheep prices are not exactly melting like an unguarded ice cream in the sun, yesterday morning saw factories again turn up the heat on prices.
Cattle prices have taken a serious hit in the marts and factories this week as farmers with parched fields and tight grass supplies continue to offload stock.
My local postman is about to discover what happens when things fall from a height. He is doing a charity parachute jump for the wheelchair association. A fair feat of bravery in any circumstances, but even more so in this case as this man has never actually been in a plane.
The general consensus among factory buyers yesterday was that "numbers are coming away steadily". Unfortunately, quoted prices for lamb yesterday were not steady; this week's cut is from 10-20c/kg.
Large numbers of cattle are being offloaded and farmers are back feeding stock as the scorching heat has burned off grass growth.
Beef farmers are set for a World Cup bounce, with the IFA predicting a stronger trade for manufacturing beef in Britain as the festival of football gathers pace in Russia.
At the start of June, general quotes for bullocks ran from €4.20/kg to €4.30/kg, while heifers were trading at €4.25-4.35/kg.
I spoke to one sheep factory representative yesterday and after our conversation on the trade concluded, I asked if he was he watching the World Cup. "No," he replied, "hurling is my thing, and more so since we're sailing the top of a wave down here with Davy Fitzgerald."
Five points up with just 10 minutes remaining Tipperary hurlers thought they had it in the bag on Sunday, but Clare had other ideas and by the time the final whistle blew in Thurles the Banner had beaten the 2016 All-Ireland champions.
After almost a month of constant price pressure during which lamb fell by up to €1.20/kg or €24.60/kg on a 20.5kg carcase, yesterday morning saw factory prices recover slightly.
Last week's trade returned to a more confident footing as the good weather lessened numbers in some places, resulting in more competition at ringside.
Ahead of yesterday's Waterford versus Tipperary championship match the expectation was that the Déise could expect a very thorough examination from the Premier County.
For the third week in a row factories pulled back their opening bids for spring lamb, this time by 30-40c/kg. Overall quotes for lamb have now fallen by a cumulative figure of between 90-120c/kg in three weeks.
Last weekend saw a plethora of inter-county hurling matches played around the country. What a lot of them had in common was that the media experts correctly called the result in advance.
When any event happens, the reason behind it is always open to scrutiny and interpretation.
When goalkeeper Loris Karius, who had a nightmare in the Champions League final on Saturday, is offloaded by Liverpool, I suspect our sheep factories might queue up to sign him. When it comes to dropping things, they are made for each other.
Early this week saw all factories attempt to crunch spring lamb prices as they dropped their official quotes by 10-20c/kg. The short story is that lamb is now being quoted at €6.60-6.80/kg, while Dawn and the two ICM plants are the only plants officially quoting for hoggets.
This week saw all factories attempt to crunch spring lamb prices as they dropped their official quotes by 10-20c/kg.
We were an odd bunch watching the royal wedding in my kitchen. Myself -the farmer with little in the way of royal leanings; my wife, the unabashed royalist and lover of weddings in general; my vet, a German with strong views on matters military.
In the ongoing cattle game between factories and farmers, it has become obvious even to the most casual observer that things have ratcheted up several gears over the last couple of weeks.
Broadly speaking, prices for hogget, spring lambs and cull ewes remain fixed at last week's levels.
With the weather improving, cattle marts last week saw a continuation of strong numbers and strong prices for good cattle.
Around the turn of the year, I heard that some factory bosses had instructed their agents to find out what cattle their clients had in sheds.
The export trade is starting to pick up with shippers again showing interest in bull weanlings under 10 months up to 350kg says Glen Cooper of Mountrath Mart.
There are two very distinct camps this week when it comes sheep price prospects. On the one side you have the IFA and ICSA, both of whom claim the trade is strong and will get stronger as we approach the Islamic festival of Ramadan.
There have been some attempts by factories to undermine farmer confidence in the market place.
"It's hard to get a handle on it, but they're not any less". That brief summary of where factory beef prices were at yesterday morning was given to me by a factory agent, who occasionally has a foot in more than one plant.
Ivan Moffitt of Manorhamilton mart rates sheep as "the only job at the moment". The statement is backed up by the fact that, despite poor weather, for the second week in a row sheep farmers are walking on sunshine as factory quotes for hogget jumped another 20-25c/kg over the weekend.
The red-hot trade for hoggets and lamb could last until mid-summer.
Manchester City secured their third premier league title in seven seasons on Sunday with five games still to play.
Weather and grass considerations continue to affect the mart trade as those with stock to sell appear to be holding back on numbers thus far.
The factory sheep trade pushed into further positive territory this week as hogget price increased by as much as 25c/kg. All the factories quoted a minimum of €6.00/kg for hogget, while Kildare Chilling moved to €6.10+10c/kg bonus, just ahead of both Dawn Ballyhaunis and Kepak Athleague, who are on €6.05/kg + 5c/kg bonus.
While there was no general forward movement on prices over the week, some with market-specific stock succeeded over the weekend in pushing the price boundaries.
WE have just come out of the third consecutive short working week for processors. It is a factor that had many speculating that factories would use those lost working days to help them manage available numbers.
There's a story in Irish folklore about an old, brown-striped cow that boasted that the harsh weather of March could not kill her. March took exception to this claim and, borrowing three days from April, renewed the assault with added fury. Savage rain, hail, snow gales and cold poured down on the boastful cow.
This week's price table, shows no change for hogget prices from last week although the ICM group, which controls over 40pc of the national sheep kill, do lift their quote for cull ewes by 10c/kg to €3.00/kg. Is this a sign of an improving market?
There are times in every football match when you have to concede the ball to the opposition. That's when the strength of your defence is tested.
The traditional trade at this time of year is driven by buyers who, having gauged early grass growth, set about buying stock in advance based on the results.
The current situation on the factory side of the business is that over the last month factory bosses have been a bit like the English pack at Twickenham - when it's not going your way collapse the scrum.
Readers of a certain age may remember the ad for Guinness Light, a product that was one of the most infamous flops in drinks' industry history.
QUESTION marks are being raised over whether 'panic buying' is causing a ringside surge.
WITH the Cheltenham Gold Cup imminent I was hoping to use a racing analogy this week to add a bit of colour to the factory report.
SHEEP prices at the factory gate picked up considerable speed over the past week.
A week is a long time in the cattle trade.
As the country gets back to normal after the big snow of 2018 the cattle trade is beginning to find its feet.
Like most of the country, I woke up yesterday to frozen ground and the prospect of snow and even colder weather to come.
The buoyancy in the mart trade slowed down last week, a trend reflected in falls across almost all weight and quality categories on the ringside table.
A buoyant trade is reported for dairy heifers as demand for replacement stock appears to be trumping uncertainty over milk prices for the year ahead.
IF the factory end of the cattle business at present was to be compared to a football match you'd be saying it was tight all across the park.
Prices for hogget jumped significantly early this week.
It is not the first time that auctioneer Jim Bushe of New Ross mart has warned about the state of suckler production in his part of the country.
Changing circumstances sometimes make for strange alliances.
I'm a big Star Trek fan. The classic TV show had Captain Kirk and Mr Spock of the Starship Enterprise involved every week in some strange yet interesting adventure in some far flung corner of the galaxy.
The clean sheep saga continues to rumble on, however it is having no negative effect on prices.
The short message on cattle prices this week is that they appear stable. Bullocks were being almost universally quoted at €3.90/kg yesterday morning, with heifers steady at €4.00/kg.
Last week appears to have been a largely positive week for those with cattle to sell at the marts.
Life isn't simple and I can tell you that trying to understand the nuances of the sheep trade is downright complicated. Take yesterday morning for example.
With last week's cattle kill creeping up over 34,000, the effect of high numbers on prices continues.
Before receiving the ringside figures for last week, I had expected mart prices to show some signs of stability even allowing for recent wobbles in factory prices.
A cattleman I know used the phrase "blue January" to describe the trade at his local mart.
The sheep trade a bit like the cattle trade appears to be suffering from winter blues as the bigger factories quoting for hogget yesterday morning eased back by between prices 5-10c/kg.
The majority of marts have swung back into action, with numbers surprisingly strong in some areas of the country for the time of year.
MANY readers may, like myself, have sat down after Sunday dinner and perused the Sunday Independent's 'Rich List'. If you did, after half an hour your head would have been swirling from figures from the figures connected with farming and its performance in 2017.
I’m told that the next big thing in sheep fashion could be the umbrella coat.
Factory bosses and agents I spoke to over the weekend managed to obscure what might be achievable on prices by placing a lot of emphasis instead on the kill figure which last week stood at 39,400.
The ringside tables over the last six weeks have seen a lot of fluctuations. Prices fell one week and rose the next with on occasion a rhythm of one-up, one-down creeping into the relationship between the price of heifers and bullocks.
A bit like a classic sailing ship under full canvas, the sheep business ploughs on towards Christmas, taking extra numbers and cold weather all in her stride. The command from the top deck is "steady as she goes".
Official quotes for lamb and cull ewes remained steady yesterday as factory demand continues to eat into strong supplies. Bord Bia reports overall throughputs at export meat plants for the week ending November 25 stood at over 65,000 head which was on a par with the previous week and 8,000 head or 14pc higher compared to the corresponding week in 2016.
Factory bosses were at pains this week to give the impression that base prices were steady at €3.90/kg for bullocks and €4.00/kg for heifers, the reality is there is more to be had. If you've got in-spec finished bullocks €3.95/kg appears to be where the real-time price is at, while the heifer trade is seeing prices as high as €4.10/kg floated.
The situation in the factory sheep trade is that numbers are strong but demand is just that little bit stronger.
When you see a cull cow making €2.28/kg or €2,380 at Roscrea mart in the same week that factory kill figures hit a year high of 39,800, you really begin to see where beef prices could go.
Looking at the Ringside figures for last few weeks you can detect a broadly cyclical trend to the trade.
All the official factory quotes are up by 10c/kg for lambs, with ewes improving by anything from 10-20c/kg.
"Say nothing, tell no one" - those were the word that echoed down many phones over the weekend and yesterday morning as factory agents closed deals that saw many hundreds of cattle being bought at prices that factories don't want publicised.
Back in 1988 Yazz and the Plastic Population released a great little number called 'The Only Way Is Up', a song with a real positive bounce to it. However, one of its first lines is "Being on the bottom line is no fun", and indeed it isn't.
There have been more bounces and falls in the mart trade over the last month than you'd find in one of those bouncy rubber balls your mother took off you in the kitchen as a child for fear "you'd break all-round you".
Three weeks ago the number of cattle killed in Irish meat export plants was 36,100, two weeks ago it was over 37,000 and last week it was 33,085.
Factory prices of €370-3.75/kg for bullocks and €3.80-3.85/kg for heifers are coming under pressure as numbers tighten.
Two weeks ago it appeared that a corner had been turned on the balance between numbers and buyers. Bigger sales coincided with bigger numbers of buyers arriving ringside.
The two ICM plants at Camolin and Navan have increased their lamb quotes by 10c this week to €4.50+10c/kg quality assurance.
The question posed in this column last week by New Ross auctioneer Jim Bush was whether there was an imminent easing in numbers of cattle fit for slaughter. The answer appears to be yes as numbers dropped last week by nearly 2,000 to 36,100.
The arrival on a lot of farms of the 70pc Basic Payment Advance last week took the "sharp edge" off a poor sheep price.
These are difficult times for those with cattle fit for slaughter, whether they're indoors or out.
Quotes for bullocks yesterday morning ranged from €3.70-3.75/kg for bullocks and €3.80-3.85/kg for heifers with some factory agents predicting "€3.70-3.80 could happen by the end of the week".
The story in the lamb trade recently has been one of factory price pulls while the store trade holds very firm at the marts.
You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to see what's afoot in the cattle business at present.