Factories slow to raise spring lamb quotes, but deals being done at higher prices

As mentioned last week, the demand for spring lamb is set to intensify with the onset of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. Despite this, spring lamb buyers are sluggish when it comes to upping the base quotes offered.

For the most part, procurement managers have opted to maintain quotes at last week’s levels, with base quotes of 490-500c/kg (excluding Quality Assurance bonuses) on the table.

However, deals are being done at much higher prices and farmers who are willing to bargain hard when it comes to marketing stock have secured returns of 510-520c/kg over recent days.

There’s also scope to look for leniency when it comes to carcass weight cut-off limits. Towards the latter stages of last week, some producers secured deals up to 21.5kg, while others sold lambs on the basis of a 22kg carcass cut-off.

Although the spring lamb market remains relatively strong, the ewe trade appears to remain difficult; some buyers even dropped ewe base quotes to 260c/kg this week, while others held at 270c/kg.

Supplies

Meanwhile, figures from the Department of Agriculture show that some 63,326 sheep were slaughtered in approved sheepmeat export plants during the week ending August 5 – up 1,571 head on the previous week.

Although throughput increases were witnessed in the spring lamb category, the number of hogget and cast (ewe and ram) slaughterings decreased on the week before.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes (week ending August 5):
  • Hoggets: 313 head (-42 head or -11.8%);
  • Spring lambs: 50,536 head (+2,204 head or +4.6%);
  • Ewes and rams: 12,477 head (-589 head or -4.5%);
  • Total: 63,326 head (+1,571 head or +2.5%).

Official figures also show that over 1.64 million sheep were slaughtered in approved plants up to the period ending August 5 this year.

Throughput increases were witnessed in the hogget and cast categories, while spring lamb throughput was back by 52,217 head or 9% on the corresponding period in 2017.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 827,823 head (+21,969 head or +3%);
  • Spring lambs: 540,728 head (-52,217 head or -9%);
  • Ewes and rams: 278,271 head (+50,458 head or +22%);
  • Total: 1,646,949 head (+19,707 head or +1%).

The marts

Carnew Mart

Some 2,850 sheep passed through the ring of Carnew Mart on Thursday last and an improved trade was witnessed for butcher and factory lambs.

With competition from buyers, the prices achieved for these lambs rose by €2-3/head compared to the previous week and a top price of €120 was paid for 62kg lambs.

Sample lamb prices:
  • >50kg: €108-120;
  • 45-49kg: €97-111;
  • 40-44kg: €83-99;
  • 35-39kg: €71-87;
  • <35kg: €58-78.

Cull ewes met a similar trade to the previous week and prices of €55-114 were achieved. Meanwhile, hogget ewes sold for €130-162; older breeding ewes traded at €85-130 and breeding rams made €150-400.

Baltinglass Mart

Lamb prices were up €1-3/head at Baltinglass Mart’s weekly sheep sale on Saturday last, while store lamb returns improved by €2-4/head.

Sample lamb prices: 
  • 48-55kg: €104-112;
  • 40-45kg: €84-96;
  • 30-35kg: €80-90.

A selection of ewes were also on offer, with cast ewes trading at €55-122 and brood ewes selling for €110-165.

Tullow Mart

Farmers flocked to Tullow, Co. Carlow, for the 31st annual Tullow Sheep Breeders’ Association show and sale on Wednesday last.

Over 2,600 sheep were entered on the day – 1,230 ewe lambs and 1,450 hogget ewes – and the sale exceeded all expectations.

A very lively trade for both ewe lambs and hogget ewes was witnessed throughout the day. In the ewe lamb ring, under the guidance of auctioneer Jim Bush, the trade opened up to a good, honest, steady trade.

Well-presented Suffolk/Cheviot cross ewe lambs, weighing upwards of 45kg, sold from €125 up to €145. Some exceptional prices of up to €167 were also realised.

Lighter ewe lambs (>40kg) sold for €110-135 and very strong demand was witnessed for those falling into the 43-48kg category. However, the lighter lambs may have been a little easier – about €3-4/head easier – than last year’s sale, but they still sold for €95 and up.

A good, honest trade was also reported for all classes of hoggets. Heavier types sold from €190 up to a tops of €227, with the majority selling between €195 and €220. Fitter-type hoggets sold for €170-195, while some very light lots traded from a base of €150.

Ballinasloe Mart

Moving west, a much larger sale of sheep was witnessed at Ballinasloe Mart on Thursday last and a strong clearance of lambs was achieved.

Lambs sold for an average price of €87, with the top lot selling to a maximum of €120, while hoggets sold for an average of €153. A number of ewes were also on offer; cast ewes sold to an average of €90, while breeding ewes traded to an average of €125.

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