Further ease in spring lamb quotes

Spring lamb producers are facing into another challenging week as quotes have eased by a further 10c/kg.

In the early part of last week, the majority of buyers offered 480-490c/kg for spring lambs. However, base quotes have dropped to 470-480c/kg (excluding Quality Assurance bonuses) this week.

Procurement managers are pointing to strong supplies over recent weeks as the primary cause of the reduction, while the weakness of the sterling also has a role to play.

In addition, an increase in the number of Northern Irish lambs being available for slaughter down south also has to be accounted for.

According to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC), some 8,439 Northern Irish lambs were exported to southern plants during the week ending August 26 – a climb of 945 head on the previous week. This was the highest level of weekly export recorded since early March this year.

Although the spring lamb market has taken a hit over recent weeks, some farmers have been able to secure deals at 500c/kg this week. Some movement is also available in factory weight limits, with some producers securing deals up to a 22kg carcass.

Meanwhile, as has been the case over recent weeks, the ewe market continues to remain tricky and buyers are starting negotiations are 260c/kg for factory-fit lots and are continuing to impose 40kg carcass weight limits.

Supplies

Driven by demand from the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, throughput in Irish sheep factories reached 78,428 head during the week ending August 19 – a climb of 20,219 head on the previous week.

A 20,411-head rise in spring lamb throughput was the primary reason for this increase, while cast (ewe and ram) and hogget throughput declined.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes (week ending August 19):
  • Hoggets: 177 head (-79 head or -30.9%);
  • Spring lambs: 68,300 head (+20,411 head or +42.6%);
  • Ewes and rams: 9,950 head (-114 head or -1.1%);
  • Total: 78,428 head (+20,219 head or +34.7%).

Meanwhile, just over 1.78 million sheep have been slaughtered in approved export plants up to the week ending August 19 – up 42,485 head on the same period in 2017.

Throughput increases were witnessed in the hogget and cast categories, while spring lamb slaughterings continue to run behind the levels witnessed in 2017.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 828,256 head (+22,212 head or +3%);
  • Spring lambs: 656,917 head (-27,318 head or -4%);
  • Ewes and rams: 298,285 head (+48,211 head or +19%);
  • Total: 1,783,586 head (+42,485 head or +2%).

The marts

Mountbellew Mart

Moving to the mart trade, a very large sale of sheep was witnessed in Mountbellew Mart on Saturday; increased numbers of lambs, breeding sheep and cast ewes were on offer.

Lambs were reported to have met a firm trade and this was especially the case for heavier lots and factory lambs. However, lighter store lambs met with a mixed trade.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 13 ewe lambs: 41kg – €88 or €2.15/kg;
  • Five ram lambs: 50kg – €100 or €2.00/kg;
  • 18 wether lambs: 44kg – €83 or €1.89/kg;
  • 14 ewe lambs: 44kg – €112 or €2.54/kg;
  • 10 ram lambs: 38kg – €84 or €2.21/kg;
  • 14 wether lambs: 43.5kg – €90 or €2.07/kg.

In addition, quality ewe hoggets and breeding ewes met a good trade. However, lighter lots were harder sold. Ewe hoggets made €130-170, first-crop ewes sold at €115-155 and second-crop ewes traded at €100-133.

A large number of cast ewes were also on offer and these ranged in price from €75 up to €111.

Roscommon Mart

Like Mountbellew Mart, a large number of sheep also passed through the ring of Roscommon Mart on Wednesday last.

Prices for finished lambs peaked at €111 for 49.1kg lambs, store lambs fetched up to €87 and ewe lambs sold up to €107/head.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 49.1kg: €111 or €2.26/kg;
  • 56kg: €105 or €1.88/kg;
  • 48.4kg: €98 or €2.02/kg;
  • 44.3kg ewe lambs: €107 or €2.42/kg;
  • 48.4kg ewe lambs: €95 or €1.96/kg;
  • 43.9kg: €87 or €1.98/kg;
  • 38kg: €82 or €2.16/kg.

When it comes to cast ewes, a similar trade was witnessed to previous weeks and prices ranged from €40 up to €128.

Aurivo Livestock Mart Ballymote

Last Tuesday’s sale in Aurivo Livestock Mart Ballymote was said to have been more difficult. Lambs weighing under 35kg sold at €20-41 over, 35-40kg lambs made €27-50 over and those weighing 40-45kg traded at €30-51 over.

In addition, lambs falling into the 45-50kg category made €32-55.50 over and the heavier lots sold up to €58 over.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 30kg: €71 or €2.36/kg;
  • 34kg: €61 or €1.79/kg;
  • 39kg: €89 or €2.28/kg;
  • 38kg: €77 or €2.03/kg;
  • 44kg: €92 or €2.09/kg;
  • 46.5kg: €102 or €2.19/kg;
  • 50.5kg: €106 or €2.10/kg.

Moving to the ewe trade, strong cull ewes sold at €40-75 and heavier lots traded at €80-118. In addition, older breeding ewes sold at €50-90, light hoggets made €100-130 and the heavier types secured prices of €140-182.

Blessington Mart

Also on Tuesday, 2,247 sheep passed through the ring of Blessington Mart, Co. Wicklow. A very lively trade was witnessed for all types of cast sheep. A steady trade was also reported for breeding ewes and hoggets, with the fat and store lamb trade remaining similar to last week.

On the day, butcher lambs sold at €103-108/head or €55-63 over, factory lambs made €48-59 over and store lambs sold for €64-90/head or €32-46 over.

In addition, fat ewes traded at €105-126, while feeding ewes made €65-100. A nice selection of Suffolk-cross breeding stock was also offered.

Suffolk-cross hoggets sold at €140-180, three and four-year-old ewes of the same breeding sold at €115-135 and Suffolk-cross ewe lambs sold for €100-140/head or €60-92 over.

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