Processors move to tighten grip on spring lamb market

After strengthening somewhat over recent weeks, sheep processors have moved to tighten their grip on the market this week.

Although prices of 500-505c/kg (including bonuses) were widely available last week, many processors have moved to lower spring lamb base quotes by 10c/kg.

Lamb buyers are now starting negotiations with farmers at 480-490c/kg (excluding Quality Assurance bonuses) this week.

It’s worth remembering that we witnessed similar moves from processors in the week directly ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha last year. In the corresponding period in 2017, processors dropped spring lamb quotes by a similar margin.

In addition, more Northern Irish lamb has also been processed in Irish plants over recent weeks. According to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC), exports of Northern Irish lamb to southern plants totalled 7,494 head during the week ending August 11 – up 455 head on the previous week and the highest level of exports recorded since February 2018.

Moving on to ewes, the ewe trade appears to remain tricky for another week. Although largely unchanged from last week, processors are only offering 260-270c/kg for factory-fit ewes.


Meanwhile, figures from the Department of Agriculture show that some 58,209 sheep were slaughtered in approved export plants during the week ending August 12.

Throughput decreases were witnessed in the hogget, spring lamb and cast (ewe and ram) categories to put the total weekly kill back by 5,117 head or 8.1% on the previous week. However, a lack of processing on Monday, August 6, due to the bank holiday is likely to have contributed to this reduction.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes (week ending August 12):
  • Hoggets: 256 head (-57 head or -18.2%);
  • Spring lambs: 47,889 head (-2,647 head or -5.2%);
  • Ewes and rams: 10,064 head (-2,413 head or -19.3%);
  • Total: 58,209 head (-5,117 head or -8.1%).

In addition, the department’s figures also show that just over 1.7 million sheep have been processed in approved export plants this year.

When compared to the corresponding period in 2017, throughput increases have been witnessed in the hogget and cast categories, while the spring lamb kill has declined by 46,207 head or 7%.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 828,079 head (+22,107 head or +3%);
  • Spring lambs: 588,617 head (-46,207 head or -7%);
  • Ewes and rams: 288,335 head (+50,283 head or +21%);
  • Total: 1,705,158 head (+25,680 head or +2%).


Mountbellew Mart

A larger number of sheep was said to have been entered at Mountbellew Mart’s weekly sheep sale on Saturday last and an improved trade was witnessed for store lambs, ewe lambs and quality ewe hoggets.

Factory lambs were reported to have met a similar trade to previous weeks and prices of €1.98-2.13/kg were achieved.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 20 wether lambs: 40kg – €85 or €2.13/kg;
  • Seven wether lambs: 44.5kg – €95 or €2.13/kg;
  • 14 ewe lambs: 46.5kg – €121 or €2.60/kg;
  • Four wether lambs: 38kg – €82 or €2.16/kg;
  • 20 wether lambs: 38.5kg – €85 or €2.21/kg;
  • Six ram lambs: 52kg – €103 or €1.98/kg;
  • Four ram lambs: 46.3kg – €95 or €2.05/kg.

A brisk trade was also witnessed for cast ewes and prices of €70-115 were realised; ewe hoggets ranged in price from €135 up to €180 and first-crop ewes traded at €120-155.

Carnew Mart

Approximately 2,800 sheep passed through the ring of Carnew Mart for its weekly sheep sale on Thursday last and fat lamb prices were reported to have been €2/head easier than previous weeks.

Sample lamb prices:
  • Butcher and factory lambs: €95-122;
  • Store lambs >35kg: €72-85;
  • Store lambs <35kg: €58-77;
  • Ewe lambs: €75-115.

Meanwhile, cull ewes sold for €45-110, hogget ewes traded at €130-170 and older breeding ewes made €80-130.

Roscommon Mart

Moving west to Roscommon Mart, a larger number of sheep was again offered and spring lambs peaked at €110 for 51.1kg lambs, store lambs fetched up to €85.50 and ewe lambs realised prices of up to €117.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 51.1kg: €110 or €2.15/kg;
  • 51.5kg: €110 or €2.14/kg;
  • 58kg: €110 or €1.90/kg;
  • 50.6kg: €106 or €2.09/kg;
  • 41kg: €85.50 or €2.08/kg;
  • 42.1kg: €85 or €2.02/kg;
  • 40.8kg: €82 or €2.01/kg;
  • 37.1kg: €75 or €2.02/kg.

Meanwhile, cast ewes remained similar to previous weeks and prices of €50-133 were achieved.

Aurivo Livestock Mart Ballymote

An improved trade was witnessed for factory lambs at Ballymote on Tuesday last, with +45kg creep-fed lambs making the most. In addition, more store lambs were also on offer, while quality ewe lambs met demand from farmers and hogget producers.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 39kg: €84 or €2.15/kg;
  • 36kg: €70 or €1.94/kg;
  • 43kg: €97 or €2.26/kg;
  • 41.5kg: €96 or €2.31/kg;
  • 49kg: €107 or €2.18/kg;
  • 55kg: €115 or €2.09/kg;
  • 50.5kg: €112 or €2.22/kg;
  • 51.5kg: €112 or €2.17/kg.

In addition, €50-72 was paid for store cull ewes and heavier lots traded at €80-100; lighter-type hoggets made €105-130, while quality types realised prices of €150-190.