Sheep trade: Tighter supplies see lamb prices pressing €5/kg

Many sheep farmers across the country have received a much needed boost as spring lamb factory quotes have increased this week.

As it stands, most farmers are fetching €104.50/head – €105.60/head for top-weight lambs – excluding Quality Assurance (QA) bonuses.

Farmers will be hoping that the lamb price will continue to rise over the coming weeks. Factory agents have reported that lamb supplies are tightening; as a result, this may lead to a price increase in the coming weeks.

Therefore, farmers should have a little more bargaining power to secure higher prices for their spring lambs.

This week, Irish Country Meats (ICM) is offering a base price for spring lambs of 475c/kg + 10c/kg QA (payable up to 22kg carcass). This is an increase of 15c/kg compared to last week.

Kepak Athleague is offering a base price for spring lambs of 480c/kg + 5c/kg QA (payable up to 22kg carcass); this is up 5c/kg compared to last week.

Kildare Chilling increased its base price by 5c/kg compared to last week and is also offering a base of 480c/kg + 10c/kg QA (payable up to 22kg carcass).

Spring lamb quotes:
  • Kildare Chilling: 480c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • Kepak Athleague: 480c/kg + 5c/kg QA;
  • ICM Camolin: 475c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • ICM Navan: 475c/kg + 10c/kg QA.

For ewes, the majority of buyers are quoting 250-260c/kg – excluding QA bonuses – some processors have increased quotes for ewes by 10c/kg from last week.

Clean Livestock Policy

This week, some processors are reporting that Department of Agriculture (DAFM) inspectors are sending ‘unacceptable for slaughter’ sheep home from factories.

In addition, factory agents are urging farmers to ensure lambs and ewes are as clean as possible when presented for slaughter.

Some plants – with clipping facilities – are taking remedial action on sheep that arrive in an unclean state, albeit at a clipping charge for the farmer. However, where this service is not available, unacceptable sheep are being sent home.

The recent wet weather is contributing to this problem further. Some farmers have reported that their sheep were rejected for being too wet. This is proving to be a significant headache for sheep farmers across the country as the unfavourable weather continues.


Figures from the Department of Agriculture show that some 65,662 sheep were slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved sheep export plants during the week ending November 18 – a decrease of 1,837 head or 2.7% on the week before.

Source: Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

The number of lambs slaughtered decreased by 2,369 head or 4% compared to the previous week. In addition, cast ewe and ram slaughterings increased slightly by 524 head or 4.7% on the week before.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 79 head (-8 head or -9%);
  • Spring lambs: 53,901 head (-2,369 head or -4%);
  • Ewes and rams: 11,661 head (-524 head or -4.7%);
  • Total: 65,662 head (-1,837 head or -4%%).

Official figures also show that almost 2.65 million sheep have been slaughtered up to and including the week ending November 18.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 829,475 head (+22,204 head or +2.7%);
  • Spring lambs: 1,369,646 head (-4,959 head or <1%);
  • Ewes and rams: 450,278 head (+55,482 head or +14%);
  • Total: 2,649,570 head (+71,751 head or +2.7%).

Sheep Marts

Carnew Mart

There was a big sheep sale on Thursday (November 22) last at Carnew Mart with reports of 3,150 sheep on offer. It was also noted that there was a strong demand for lambs with a top price of €115 paid.

In addition, store lambs continued to be a good trade with plenty of farmer customers present. Breeding ewes fetched €100-€128/head and cull ewes made €45-€118/head.

Lambs sold at:
  • <35kg – €65-83/head;
  • >35kg – €80-93/head;
  • 40-44kg – €88-99/head;
  • 45-49kg – €98-112/head;
  • >50kg – €106-115/head.

Ballinrobe Mart

The sheep trade was reported to be good last Wednesday (November 21) at Ballinrobe Mart. Store lambs made from €64/head to €88/head.

Ewe lambs made from €85/head to €109/head and cull ewes made from €64/head to €92/head.