€20 wiped off spring lambs in just 5 weeks

As has been the case over recent weeks, the spring lamb trade continues to remain challenging and processors have imposed further price cuts this week.

As it stands, lamb buyers are currently offering a base price of 480-490c/kg (excluding Quality Assurance Scheme and producer group bonuses) for spring lambs, thus imposing cuts of approximately 10c/kg on last week.

When compared to June 12 – just five weeks ago – that’s a massive drop of €1.00-1.10/kg. At the lower end of the scale, that represents a loss to the farmer of approximately €20/head on a lamb producing a 20kg carcass.

Meanwhile, procurement managers have also become stricter when it comes to accepting ‘light’ or under-finished lambs. Some plants have imposed 20c/kg penalties on lambs failing to produce a 16kg carcass at slaughter.

There appears to be no leeway in this regard and one farmer told AgriLand that he had 20c/kg knocked off a lamb which produced a 15.9kg carcass – knocking €3.18 of the resulting price of this lamb.

Despite the serious price cuts imposed, the ewe market appears to remain relatively stable and early quotes are sitting at the 280-290c/kg mark.

‘No need for any further cuts’

Given the serious nature of the price cuts imposed, the IFA’s (Irish Farmers’ Association’s) Sean Dennehy has been vocal in warning factories to stabilise lamb prices.

Factories have a major responsibility to stabilise the market at this critical juncture and further price cuts must be avoided.

The IFA national sheep chairman also noted that drought is a major problem on farms, particularly in the south-east, and he commented that some meat plants are reporting as high as 30% of lambs are under-finished.

“Farmers should consider all options to avoid selling under-finished lambs, including meal feeding. Under-finished lambs are a significant issue and are causing unnecessary problems on the market in terms of both numbers and price.”

Supplies

During the week ending July 8, some 62,285 sheep were processed in export approved sheepmeat plants. Throughput increases were witnessed in the spring lamb and cast (ewe and ram) categories, but hogget numbers continued to decline.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes (week ending July 8):
  • Hoggets: 668 head (-572 head or -46%);
  • Spring lambs: 51,790 head (+3,541 head or +7.3%);
  • Ewes and rams: 9,827 head (+671 head or +7.3%);
  • Total: 62,285 head (+3,636 head or +6.2%).

Meanwhile, official figures show that just under 1.4 million sheep were slaughtered in Ireland this year. Throughput increases were witnessed in the hogget and cast categories, while spring lamb throughput is back by 13%.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 826,427 head (+21,970 head or +3%);
  • Spring lambs: 342,940 head (-52,899 head or -13%);
  • Ewes and rams: 228,689 head (+40,298 head or +21%);
  • Total: 1,398,181 head (+8,844 head or +1%).