Confidence growing in spring lamb market

The Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha is drawing closer and, as a result, confidence in the spring lamb market is growing.

Although processors are slow to raise base quotes, with many opting to hold at 490-500c/kg, improvements look to be on the way. Where quotes have not already hit the 500c/kg mark, the general consensus is that they will before the close of this week.

With this, the ball is back in the farmers’ court when it comes to negotiating deals and farmers are in a strong position before giving the green light for slaughter.

The importance of Eid al-Adha and its resulting demand cannot be allowed to pass without providing farmers with higher prices.

During the weeks preceding the festival, demand for Irish lamb – both on the live export and dead markets – reaches a peak.

As it stands, exporters are active in the market sourcing long-tailed ram lambs for Middle Eastern countries; their presence will invariably reduce the pool of lambs available to factory buyers, thus strengthening the farmers’ negotiation position.

What’s more, the cost of producing a lamb – particularly in the areas hardest hit by this summer’s drought – has risen substantially. Therefore, it’s imperative that farmers bargain hard when it comes to marketing lambs over the coming weeks.

There’s also scope for leeway when it comes to carcass weight cut-offs; if factories want lamb, they should be willing to pay up to 22kg over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the market doesn’t look as promising for ewes. As it stands, procurement managers are starting negotiations at 260-270c/kg for such animals. With many plants operating 40kg carcass cut-offs, higher prices may be achieved at the ringside.


Official figures from the Department of Agriculture’s sheep kill database show that some 61,755 sheep were slaughtered in approved export plants during the week ending July 29 – down 2.6% or 1,629 head on the previous week.

Throughput decreases were witnessed in both the spring lamb and cast (ewe and ram) categories, while hogget throughput increased marginally.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes (week ending July 29):
  • Hoggets: 355 head (+68 head or 23.7%);
  • Spring lambs: 48,332 head (-1,582 head or -3.2%);
  • Ewes and rams: 13,066 head (-117 head or -0.9%);
  • Total: 61,755 head (-1,629 head or -2.6%).

Official figures also indicate that just over 1.5 million sheep have been processed in Ireland thus far this year – a climb of 16,147 head or 1% on the corresponding period in 2017.

Although hogget and cast throughput is up, the number of spring lambs marketed has declined by 10% or 54,773 head when compared to the same time last year.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 827,510 head (+21,873 head or +3%);
  • Spring lambs: 490,192 head (-54,773 head or -10%);
  • Ewes and rams: 265,794 head (+49,549 head or +23%);
  • Total: 1,583,623 head (+16,147 head or +1%).

The marts

Mountbellew Mart

Mountbellew Mart hosted its largest sheep sale of the year on Saturday last; increased numbers of store and factory lambs were marketed on the day. Lambs met an improved trade and prices of upwards of €100 were achieved for factory-fit lambs.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 38.5kg: €87 or €2.26/kg;
  • 52kg: €104 or €2.00/kg;
  • 43kg: €90 or €2.09/kg;
  • 39.6kg: €86 or €2.17/kg;
  • 40kg: €88 or €2.20/kg;
  • 45.7kg: €97 or €2.12/kg.

The first of this year’s ewe hoggets also made an appearance at the Galway-based venue and prices of €152-185 were achieved. Meanwhile, a similar number of cast ewes also passed through the ring and these lots traded for €75-115.

Raphoe Mart

Buyers were said to be plentiful at Raphoe Mart’s weekly sheep sale on Monday and an excellent trade was recorded for the entry of good-quality sheep.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 30-36kg: €70-80;
  • 36-40kg: €80-90;
  • 40-42kg: €90-95;
  • 43-45kg: €95-105;
  • 46-55kg: €105-115.

In addition, breeding hoggets sold for €130-178 and cast ewes traded at €70-120.

Carnew Mart

Some 2,180 sheep passed through the ring of Carnew Mart on Thursday last. An improved trade for factory and butcher lambs was reported, while exporters were also present for ram lambs.

Lambs weighing 45-50kg traded at €95-111, 40-44kg lots made €84-97 and the lighter stores on offer (30-34kg) sold for €64-82.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 44.9kg: €105 or €2.34/kg;
  • 51kg: €111 or €2.18/kg;
  • 47kg: €107 or €2.28/kg;
  • 51kg: €111 or €2.18/kg;
  • 47kg: €107 or €2.28/kg;
  • 42kg: €90.50 or €2.15/kg;
  • 38kg: €83.50 or €2.20/kg;
  • 35kg: €77 or €2.20/kg.

More farmer customers were also in attendance for hogget ewes and these lots sold for €137-165. Older breeding ewes made €80-122 and cast ewes traded at €52-118.

Roscommon Mart

Roscommon Mart held its opening breeding ewe and hogget sale on Saturday last. A large entry of top-quality breeding sheep was on offer.

On the day, hoggets sold for €130-170, two-year-old ewes made €130-170 and three-year-old ewes fetched €85-142.

Meanwhile, the same venue also held its weekly sheep sale on Wednesday last and spring lambs peaked at €111.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 50.3kg: €111 or €2.21/kg;
  • 49.8kg: €110 or €2.21/kg;
  • 51.7kg: €110 or €2.13/kg;
  • 43.6kg: €90 or €2.06/kg;
  • 41.3kg: €88 or €2.13/kg;
  • 37.8kg: €84 or €2.22/kg;
  • 36.7kg: €75 or €2.04/kg.