Sheep marts: Stores lead the way; but factory lambs struggle to make €100/head

After a summer of uncertainty, grass supplies have increased and farmers are back in the market – although slowly – for store lambs.

Short-keep store lambs seem to have been the order of the day over recent days, with lambs falling into the 38-40kg bracket generally trading at €2.05-2.30/kg.

Many of these store buyers are hoping that spring lamb returns will begin to gather pace at the factories over the coming weeks; they’re hopeful that this short-term investment will be a profitable one.

However, factory lambs – as has been the case for a number of weeks now – are meeting a tricky trade and are struggling to break the €100/head mark.

Although it’s a difficult choice to make, some farmers may have been better off marketing factory fit lambs through the factory. This is especially the case where procurement group and Quality Assurance bonuses are available.

Many lambs – especially those in the south and east of the country – have been finished with some level of concentrate supplementation. Where this is the case, farmers may achieve higher kill out percentages than lambs finished off grass last year.

For example, where a grass-fed 48kg lamb may have produced a 21kg carcass last year, many farmers are finding that 45-46kg lambs are hitting this target after being supplied meals on an ad-lib basis prior to slaughter.

Meanwhile, the trade for breeding hoggets continues to remain slightly tricky in the south Leinster region and – in some cases – hogget returns are back €20-40/head on the corresponding period in 2017.

Mountbellew Mart

A large number of sheep was on offer at last Saturday’s sheep sale in Mountbellew Mart. Factory lambs were said to have met a similar trade to last week, while store lambs took a slight lift. Proper breeding type ewe lambs were also in demand.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 10 ewe lambs: 46.5kg – €100 or €2.15/kg;
  • 10 store lambs: 40kg – €85 or €2.13/kg;
  • 11 store lambs: 39kg – €86 or €2.21/kg;
  • 14 ewe lambs: 38kg – €87 or €2.29/kg;
  • 10 ram lambs: 44kg – €81 or €1.84/kg.

However, a smaller number of cast ewes passed through the ring; the lighter types made €48-74, while the heavier types sold at €80-98.

Moving on to breeding stock, quality ewes and hoggets met a similar trade to previous weeks, while the lighter types were a little harder sold.

Sample hogget and ewe prices:
  • 10 ewe hoggets: €140;
  • Two ewe hoggets: €175;
  • Eight ewe hoggets: €155;
  • Seven first-crop Suffolk ewes: €123;
  • 10 second-crop ewes: €130;
  • Five first and second-crop ewes: €114.

Raphoe Mart

A good entry of sheep was recorded at Raphoe Mart’s weekly sheep sale on Monday last (October 8) and an excellent trade was recorded for all of the sheep on offer. The top lamb prices on the day stood at €120 for 59kg lambs and €113 for 43kg lambs.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 30-34kg: €65-75;
  • 34-38kg: €80-85;
  • 42-45kg: €85-90;
  • 45-50kg: €90-100;
  • 50-55kg: €100-110.

Meanwhile, breeding ewes sold for €120-192 and cast ewes traded at €50-104.

Kilkenny Mart

Some 780 sheep passed through the ring of Kilkenny Mart, Cillin Hill, on Monday (October 8). Mart auctioneer George Candler reported a solid trade for lambs, with no change compared to last week’s sale.

On the day, butcher lambs sold for €1.85-2.06/kg, factory lambs made €2.00-2.11/kg and store lambs traded at €1.90-2.05/kg.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 23 butcher lambs: 56kg – €112 or €2.00/kg;
  • 40 butcher lambs: 55.5kg – €110 or €1.98/kg;
  • 11 butcher lambs: 53kg – €104 or €1.96/kg;
  • 13 factory lambs: 47kg – €98 or €2.09/kg;
  • 20 factory lambs: 46kg – €95 or €2.07/kg;
  • 10 factory lambs: 45kg – €91 or €2.02/kg;
  • 15 store lambs: 40kg – €84 or €2.10/kg;
  • 10 store lambs: 39kg – €80 or €2.05/kg;
  • 12 store lambs: 38kg – €84 or €2.21/kg.

Although cull ewes reached a peak of €110, George said the trade was slightly easier, with prices starting at €45. He also noted that breeding hoggets sold at €135-148.

Carnew Mart

Last Thursday’s weekly sheep sale in Carnew Mart, Co. Wicklow, featured an entry of 3,620 sheep and a good selling trade for all classes was recorded on the day.

Prices were said to be similar to the previous week’s sale, as butcher-type spring lambs peaked at €106.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 50kg: €101-106;
  • 45-49kg: €91-102;
  • 40-44kg: €82-93;
  • 35-39kg: €74-86;
  • 35kg: €57-82;
  • Ewe lambs: €85-110.

On the day, cast ewes sold for €45-108 and older breeding ewes traded at €80-122.