Sheep factories: Quotes unchanged as Ophelia takes its toll

Like some of the beef factories, ex-hurricane Ophelia left many sheep processing plants without power on Monday afternoon (October 16).

In addition, some plants remained closed on Tuesday morning, as response teams worked to restore power to these factories.

The extreme weather conditions will no doubt result in a lower kill this week. Despite this, lamb and ewe prices remain largely unchanged this week.

Base quotes for spring lambs currently stand at 440-450c/kg (excluding Quality Assurance Scheme bonuses). Kildare Chilling leads the way and is currently offering an all-in price of 460c/kg (450c/kg + 10c/kg QA). In addition, Kepak Athleague is quoting 450c/kg and a QA bonus of 5c/kg.

Irish Country Meats, with facilities in Navan and Camolin, is currently offering an all-in price of 450c/kg (440c/kg + 10c/kg Quality Assurance Scheme bonus).

Cast ewe prices remain unchanged from last week and most buyers are starting negotiations with farmers at 240c/kg.


The lamb trade for the week ending October 13 had seen a decline in numbers being slaughtered. This is due to stronger supplies and an ease in demand levels.

According to Bord Bia, overall throughputs at export meat plants for the week ending October 7 stood at almost 66,000 head – up 5,000 head or 8% on the corresponding week during 2016.

Cumulative figures for the year to date have reached 2.21 million head – up 10% or 206,000 head when compared to the same period last year.sheep

Supplies of hoggets are up 18%, while cull ewes and rams are up 15%. Spring lamb numbers have also increased this year, jumping  by 4% on the corresponding period in 2016.

Furthermore, the latest net production data between January and August this year has shown that lamb output increased 12%.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes (week ending October 8):
  • Spring lambs: 51,870 (-515 or -0.9%);
  • Ewes and rams: 13,452 (+1,716 or +14%);
  • Total: 65,498 (+1,290 or +2%).

Main markets

According to Bord Bia, the British sheep trade eased somewhat last week. This is due to a rise in weekly throughputs and little change in demand.

The SQQ (standard quality quotation) live price for lamb in England and Wales made the equivalent of around 409c/kg last week.

According to provisional flock census results from Defra, the total number of sheep slaughtered in the UK during June 2017 increased by 2% – amounting to 34.6 million head. This is the highest level since 2006.

In addition, the breeding ewe flock increased by 2% when compared to 2016 levels – reaching 16.6 million head.

In France, Bord Bia says, the trade was slow and consumption is low at present. Trade was best for shoulders and legs. Retail promotions, taking place last week, focused mainly on domestically-produced and imported shoulders.