Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Sheep Committee chairman Sean Dennehy has confirmed that factories are offering up to €6.20 per kilo for lambs this week.

Speaking to AgriLand, he commented:

“I see the sheep market remaining strong for the first half of the year.

Easter and Ramadan coincide with each other this year while the festival of Eid takes place a few weeks later. All of these factors should help to create a strong demand for Irish lamb.

Dennehy continued:

“Sheep producers deserve a period of sustainable returns. Many flock owners lost lambs during the bad weather that hit the country in 2018 while 2019 was another depressing year, from a producer price perspective.”

The sheep committee chairman is of the opinion that Irish sheep numbers will increase on the back of current prices but expressed a degree of caution when asked to predict the actual scale of this envisaged expansion.

He said:

“Breeding hogget prices were strong last spring with the focus changing to ewe lambs in the autumn.

“But given the current state of the market, flock owners may opt to take the opportunity that exists now and finish ewe lambs, rather than take the risk of carrying a greater number of mature ewes next year and beyond.

IFA is in favour of expansion within the Irish sheep sector, provided it doesn’t pull back prices.

Where future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) support is concerned, Dennehy wants to see the sheep sector receiving its fair share of the basic payment budget.

“We also want a bespoke headage payment of €30 per ewe made available to flock owners. In essence, this would be an extension of the current Sheep Welfare Scheme, which provides support to producers with breeding ewes. Farmers not lambing sheep should not be considered for the proposed payment.

“IFA is also calling for the environmental benefits delivered by sheep farmers to be fully recognised. For example, the tremendous biodiversity found in many of our hill areas is driven by sheep grazing policies.

The sheep sector is entirely grass based. In addition, the output from the sector is achieved with the minimal use of fertiliser and compound feeds.”

Dennehy concluded:

“Government must also recognise the integrated nature of the Irish sheep industry. Hill farmers produce breeding ewe lambs for their lowland counterparts. Many lambs born on the hills are then finished on lowland farms.

“There are approximately 34,000 sheep producers in Ireland. They implement a wide range of production systems and land management practises. IFA is committed to representing all these interests in the most effective way possible.”