Little joy for Easter lamb producers

Easter is just days away and there has been no major improvement in lamb prices just yet.

Factories, for the most part, are offering 600c/kg (excluding Quality Assurance bonuses) for new-season lambs.

This falls short of the 700c/kg supposedly required to make such ventures worthwhile for farmers.

The two Irish Country Meats plants, along with Kildare Chilling, are offering farmers a base price of 600c/kg, with both processors paying a Quality Assurance Payment of 10c/kg.

As of Monday evening, Kepak Athleague was not offering an official quote for spring lambs.

Spring lamb supplies fall

Despite a late Easter, the number of spring lambs being brought forward for slaughter is considerably back on 2016 levels.

This indicates that some producers may be moving away from early production systems to lower-cost mid-season lambing setups.

Official figures from the Department of Agriculture show that just 1,611 spring lambs were slaughtered in approved export plants so far this year.

This is back by 81% or 6,855 head compared to the corresponding period in 2016.

Hoggets remain in demand

Hogget supplies remain relatively strong with nearly 45,000 head slaughtered during the week ending April 2 – an increase of 30% or 10,468 head on the week before.

Presently, factories are beginning negotiations with farmers at 490-500c/kg to secure suitable supplies and some deals have been done at 5-10c/kg higher – depending on quality and carcass weights.

Heavy hogget carcasses are beginning to become an issue once again, with some procurement managers finding it difficult to source hoggets with carcasses weighing less than 22-22.5kg.

Hogget prices:
  • Kildare Chilling: 500c/kg + 10c QA
  • Kepak Athleague: 490c/kg +5c QA
  • ICM Camolin: 490c/kg + 10c QA
  • ICM Navan: 490c/kg + 10c QA

More sheep slaughtered in 2017

Official figures from the Department of Agriculture also show that an additional 57,007 sheep (+10%) have been slaughtered in Ireland so far this year.

This increase is primarily driven by an increase in hogget supplies, as an extra 55,176 head of these animals have been slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved plants so far this year.

The cumulative cast kill (ewes and rams) is also up by 8,531 head or 11% in 2017, on the corresponding period in 2016.

Despite the increase in ewe supplies, the prices being offered to farmers have remained relatively stable in recent weeks with most plants offering 280-290c/kg.

Source: Department of Agriculture
Source: Department of Agriculture

Main markets

According to Bord Bia, demand remains relatively strong in Britain ahead of the upcoming Easter trade while throughputs have started to increase and reached 244,000 head during the week ending April 1.

The SQQ live price for lamb in England and Wales made the equivalent of 458c/kg deadweight towards the end of last week.

Bord Bia also reports that there has been some improvement seen in the French market, on the back of higher demand ahead of Easter.

Steady supplies of French Lacaune lamb remain on the market, it says, while grade 1 Irish lamb made 473c/kg deadweight last week.