Sheep trade: Another week of price pressure for spring lambs

Lamb buyers are continuing their quest to push down spring lamb quotes; they’re beginning negotiations with farmers at 450-465c/kg again this week.

Last week, procurement managers were instructed to lower base quotes by 5-10c/kg and they are continuing with this tactic this week.

However, suppliers are beginning to push back and are holding out for higher prices. One large finisher told me over the weekend that he won’t entertain quotes of 450-460c/kg and will look elsewhere to market his lambs; wholesale butchers are top of his list when it comes to achieving higher prices.

Where procurement managers are offering 450c/kg as a base, higher prices are undoubtedly being paid, as the appetite among farmers and finishers to accept this lower price is non-existent.

Despite the dip in spring lamb base quotes, the ewe trade continues to remain relatively steady. Like last week, buyers are offering 250-260c/kg to get suitably-fleshed ewes through the gates.


Some 68,913 sheep were processed in Department of Agriculture approved sheepmeat export plants during the week ending September 9.

Official figures show that a slight increase was observed in spring lamb (+2.8%) and ewe and ram (+5.3%) throughput, but these increases hardly justify the price cuts being pushed through by processors.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes (week ending September 9):
  • Hoggets: 95 head (+25 head or +36%);
  • Spring lambs: 55,758 head (+1,507 head or +2.8%);
  • Ewes and rams: 13,059 head (+660 head or +5.3%);
  • Total: 68,913 head (+2,193 head or +3.3%).

Moving on to the cumulative sheep kill for 2018 up to the week ending September 9, official figures show that just over 1.99 million sheep were slaughtered in Ireland – a climb of 42,924 head on the corresponding period in 2017.

Throughput increases were witnessed in the hogget and ewe and ram categories, but spring lamb slaughterings are running 29,553 head or 4% behind 2017 levels.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 828,505 head (+22,158 head or +3%);
  • Spring lambs: 829,622 head (-29,553 head or -4%);
  • Ewes and rams: 333,363 head (+50,938 head or +19%);
  • Total: 1,991,619 head (+42,924 head or +2%).

The marts

Mountbellew Mart

Mountbellew Mart held its largest sheep sale of the year so far on Saturday last; a good trade was reported for fleshed lambs and quality ewe lambs. However, lighter store lambs were a tougher trade.

Sample lamb prices:
  • Eight wether lambs: 40.7kg – €85 or €2.09/kg;
  • 11 wether lambs: 48.5kg – €93 or €1.92/kg;
  • Eight wether lambs: 37.4kg – €75 or €2.01/kg;
  • 12 ewe lambs: 37kg – €81 or €2.19/kg;
  • 17 ewe lambs: 47kg – €120 or €2.55/kg;
  • 10 ewe lambs: 50kg – €117 or €2.34/kg.

Stag ewes met a similar trade to previous weeks and demand was best for the heavier lots. On the day, prices ranged from €72 to €102.

Breeding stock also met a brisk trade. Ewe hoggets sold for €132-178, first-crop ewes made €120-158 and second-crop ewes traded at €110-142.

Roscommon Mart

52.2kg finished lambs sold to a top call of €105 at last Wednesday’s sheep sale at Roscommon Mart, while store lambs sold up to €86. There was also an exceptional trade for ewe lambs and a top price of €150 was achieved.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 52.2kg: €105 or €2.01/kg;
  • 49.8kg: €102 or €2.05/kg;
  • 50.2kg: €102 or €2.03/kg;
  • 39.3kg: €86 or €2.19/kg;
  • 41.3kg: €85 or €2.06/kg;
  • 41.1kg: €84.50 or €2.06/kg
  • 58kg ewe lambs: €150 or €2.59/kg;
  • 54.2kg ewe lambs: €137 or €2.53/kg;
  • 46.3kg ewe lambs: €109 or €2.35/kg.

There was a dip in the trade for cast ewes and prices ranged from €40-100.

Baltinglass Mart

Baltinglass Mart held its Hill Cheviot Show and Sale on Saturday last and a total of 3,500 sheep were on offer. An improved selling trade was reported for all ewes, while store and heavy lambs were similar to the previous week’s sale.

Cheviot hoggets ranged in price from €120 up to €180, while the Suffolk cross types sold at €120-165. Two, three and four-year old Cheviot ewes sold at €115-150; similar aged Suffolk lots made €95-135 and cast ewes sold for €45-110.

A selection of lambs were also on offer; Cheviot ram and wether lambs – weighing 34-39kg – were back €1-2/head, while lighter stores (30-35kg) sold at €72-82.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 49kg: €110 or €2.24/kg;
  • 48kg: €118 or €2.46/kg;
  • 44kg: €105 or €2.39/kg;
  • 42kg: €100 or €2.38/kg;
  • 40kg: €107 or €2.68/kg;
  • 35kg: €82 or €2.34/kg.