Sheep trade: Factories begin to up their game on spring lamb prices

The spring lamb trade appears to be strengthening and stronger base quotes are available in some locations.

Kepak Athleague is the first to budge when it comes to increasing base quotes. The processor based in Athleague is now beginning negotiations with farmers at 465c/kg +5c/kg QA (Quality Assurance) this week – up 10c/kg on last week.

Kildare Chilling is next best – although unchanged from last week – at a base of 460c/kg +10c/kg QA (payable up to 21.5kg), while the two Irish Country Meats’ plants are offering a base of 450c/kg +10c/kg QA (payable up to 22kg).

However, sources on the ground suggest that some suppliers are striking deals at 470-480c/kg this week and producer groups appear to have the strongest bargaining power in this regard.

Buoyed by relatively strong supplies over recent weeks, the ewe trade continues to remain slightly tricky – although stable – with base quotes starting at 240-250c/kg excluding Quality Assurance bonuses.


Figures from the Department of Agriculture show that some 67,663 sheep were slaughtered in approved export plants during the week ending October 7  – a climb of 2,283 head or 3.5% on the week before.

A 3,113 head increase in spring lamb supplies was responsible for the majority of this increase, but hogget and cast (ewes and rams) both decreased.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 73 head (-46 head or -38.7%);
  • Spring lambs: 54,911 head (+3,113 head or +6%);
  • Ewes and rams: 12,678 head (-779 head or -5.8%);
  • Total: 67,663 head (+2,283 head or +3.5%).

Official figures also show that just over 2.26 million sheep have been slaughtered up to and including the week ending October 7 this year.

Throughput increases were witnessed in the hogget and cast categories, but spring lamb numbers continue to run approximately 2% behind the same period in 2017.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 828,875 head (+22,152 head or +3%);
  • Spring lambs: 1,046,620 head (-19,186 head or -2%);
  • Ewes and rams: 386,705 head (+54,668 head or +16%);
  • Total: 2,262,339 head (+56,871 head or +3%).