As 2021 is drawing to a close, Agriland decided to speak to Sean McNamara, the sheep chair of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), to get his thoughts on a unprecedented year for sheep prices.

Reflecting on sheep prices throughout 2021, Sean said that while prices generally remained strong throughout the year, it wasn’t without a struggle.

He explained: “We had to battle against factories constantly trying to pull prices. The demand was out there – and supplies were relatively tight – but we still needed to really push to keep the momentum going for better prices.

“We [the ICSA] have also been pushing for greater transparency around the importation of live lambs and lamb in carcass form.

“We know that thousands of tonnes in carcass-form and roughly half a million live lambs are imported annually into the Republic of Ireland for slaughter.

“This is a cynical tactic used by factories to keep a lid on prices paid to local suppliers and we continue to look for answers around which markets these live lambs and lamb carcass imports are servicing, as well as guarantees around labelling and traceability.”

Sean added that the ICSA is very disappointed that more is not being done to support sheep farmers in the new Sheep Improvement Scheme (SIS).

He added: “As a successor to the Sheep Welfare Scheme (SWS), it does not go far enough in terms of building up the financial supports to sheep farmers. An extra €2/ewe will do little to keep sheep farming viable, or attract younger farmers to the sector.”