Spring lamb throughput gathers speed but farmers are facing lower prices

The spring lamb season is really starting to gather speed, but farmers selling lambs are facing the prospect of lower prices.

Over the past two weeks just over 53,000 spring lambs have been slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved sheepmeat export plants.

But earlier this week, the main sheepmeat processors moved to cut spring lamb prices by 20c/kg, with most processors now offering a base price of 530c/kg.

A number of procurement managers told Agriland that the prices have dropped due to difficult trading conditions in the UK along with a rise in spring lamb throughput over the last couple of weeks.

Spring lamb throughput jumps 33%

The number of spring lambs slaughtered at Department of Agriculture approved sheepmeat export plants jumped 33% in the space of a week.

During the week ending May 22, just over 30,000 spring lambs were slaughtered in Ireland, up 7,647 head compared to the 22,898 spring lambs slaughtered the week earlier.

However, official figures show that last week’s sheep kill was 3% (1,466 head) lower than the week before.

This is mainly due to a fall in hogget throughput, with 8,827 fewer hoggets slaughtered last week compared to the week ending May 15.

Department figures also show some decline in cast throughput.

Figures from the Department’s sheep kill database shows that there were 288 fewer ewes slaughtered last week compared to the week before.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: -8,827 head (-44%)
  • Spring lambs: +7,647 head (+33%)
  • Ewes and rams: -288 head (-4%)
  • Total: -1,466 (-3%)
spring lamb
Source: Department of Agriculture

Cumulative sheep kill

According to the Department of Agriculture, an additional 57,341 sheep have been slaughtered in Ireland during 2016 compared to 2015.

This rise is primarily due to an increase in cast and hogget slaughterings, which are 31% and 6% higher than last year.

But, despite the increase in spring lamb throughput over the past two weeks, the cumulative spring lamb kill is 7% or 7,322 head lower this year compared to the same time in 2015.