Spring lamb numbers decline by 49% and farmers face lower prices

There was a marked reduction in the number of spring lambs slaughtered last week, recent figures from the Department of Agriculture show.

During the week ending April 24, spring lamb throughput declined by 49%, with 2,149 fewer lambs slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved sheepmeat plants.

But, despite the fall in spring lamb throughput, a number of the main sheepmeat processors have moved to cut the quoted spring lamb price by 50c/kg, with most processors now offering 550-560c/kg.

A number of procurement managers told Agriland that these price cuts occurred due to a difficult sheepmeat market in France, due to the presence of ‘cheap’ UK hoggets and Spanish new season lamb.

Sheep factories have also moved to reduce the quoted price for hoggets, with prices falling by 20-30c/kg last week, to a base price of 500c/kg.

The fall in price follows a small increase in hogget throughput last week, with the weekly kill increasing by 3% or 1,025 head compared to the week ending April 17.

Prices paid for cast ewes have also fell from 290-300c/kg to 250-260c/kg last week, but the number of these lots slaughtered during the week ending April 24 fell by 7%.

Weekly sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: +1,025 head (+3%)
  • Spring lambs: -2,149 head (-49%)
  • Ewes and rams: -400 head (-7%)
  • Total: -1,487 head (-3.6%)

spring lamb

Cumulative sheep kill

Figures from the Department of Agriculture’s sheep kill data shows that the number of sheep slaughtered in Ireland so far this year is up 8% (49,327 head) on the same time in 2015.

Most of this increase comes from a jump the hogget and cast kill, which are running 6% (29,320 head) and 30% (20,389 head) higher than the corresponding period in 2015.

But, the cumulative spring lamb kill remains unchanged, with 12,633 head slaughtered to the week ending April 24, up just 17 head on the same time in 2015.