Factories act to keep the lid on spring lamb prices

Spring lamb supplies have eased somewhat in recent weeks, as farmers have opted to hold onto their lambs rather than offloading them at low factory prices.

Last week, procurement managers decided to increase spring lamb quotes by 5-15c/kg in a bid to secure supplies.

And this tactic appears to have worked, as spring lamb throughputs increased last week. However, factory buyers have been quick to put the lid back on prices.

Most have opted to knock 10c/kg off quotes this week and are currently offering 520-535c/kg (excluding Quality Assurance Scheme bonuses) for spring lambs. On a 20kg lamb carcass, that’s a drop of €2 compared to the prices achieved last week.

Kildare Chilling and Kepak Athleague are neck and neck with an all-in price of 540c/kg, while the two Irish Country Meats’ plants are starting negotiations with farmers at 530c/kg; this includes a QA bonus of 10c/kg.

Spring lamb quotes:
  • ICM Camolin: 520c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • ICM Navan: 520c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • Kepak Athleague: 535c/kg + 5c/kg QA;
  • Kildare Chilling: 530c/kg + 10c/kg QA.

Despite the fall in spring lamb quotes, ewe prices have remained largely unchanged from last week and buyers are offering 260-270c/kg to secure supplies.

Supplies

Figures from the Department of Agriculture’s sheep kill database show that there was a slight fall in the total number of sheep slaughtered during the week ending July 9.

In total, some 58,122 sheep were processed in approved export plants – a decrease of 389 head or 0.7% on the previous week.

There was also a fall in the number of spring lambs processed. Likewise, some 370 fewer hoggets were slaughtered during the week ending July 9.

Image source: Department of Agriculture

However, cast slaughterings (ewes and rams) actually increased. Department figures show that cast slaughterings increased by 564 head or 6.9% on the previous week’s levels.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes (week ending July 9):
  • Hoggets: 588 head (-370 head or -38.6%);
  • Spring lambs: 48,847 head (-561 head or -1.1%);
  • Ewes and rams: 8,687 head (+564 head or +6.9%);
  • Total: 58,122 head (-389 head or -0.7%).

Main markets

Little change was reported in the British sheep trade last week, according to Bord Bia. The SQQ live price for lamb in England and Wales made the equivalent of around 524c/kg (dead weight).

Bord Bia also says that supplies were back compared to the previous week; but cumulative throughputs are running almost 11% ahead of 2016 levels.

Moving to France, Bord Bia says, the trade remained quiet due to low demand and an oversupply of imported lamb on the market.

Limited retail promotions were also taking place and these focused on imported and domestically produced chops and legs of lamb.

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