Sheep trade: Base quotes edging closer to 500c/kg

Buoyed by strong export demand and relatively tight supplies, base spring lamb quotes are edging closer to the 500c/kg mark.

For the most part, factory buyers are offering base quotes of 480-490c/kg this week. However, when QA (quality assurance) bonuses are factored into the equation, the majority of lambs being marketed are breaking the 500c/kg mark.

Towards the latter end of last week, some farmers secured all-in prices of 515c/kg; this trend appears to be continuing this week, as both factory and butcher buyers continue to search for lambs at the ringside.

Factory quotes:
  • ICM Navan: 480c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • ICM Camolin: 480c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • Kildare Chilling: 490c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • Kepak Athleague: 490c/kg + 5c/kg QA.

What’s more is that this week’s prices are considerably better than what was on offer during the corresponding week in 2017. This week last year, most lamb buyers were offering base quotes of 450-460c/kg to secure supplies, as a hogget overhang cast a shadow on the market.

However, apart from additional supplies of UK hoggets, the availability of Irish lambs looks relatively stable when compared to previous years.

Industry analysts suggest that an additional one million hoggets will come available on the UK market this spring. However, it is not yet known how these supplies will affect the market.

In previous years, projections of additional hogget supplies in the UK failed to materialise and, as a result, Irish prices remained relatively unchanged.

2017 performance

Last week, Bord Bia’s Declan Fennell told the Meat Market Seminar that the volume and value of Irish sheepmeat exports grew by 14% and 12% respectively in 2017. Some 57,000t of Irish sheepmeat, he said, was exported last year – an increase of 12% on year earlier levels.

“In 2017, sheepmeat exports were up by 12% to €274 million. Market diversification, which has been quite evident in recent years, has continued.

45% of our exports are now going outside of our two core markets, which are the UK and France.

Despite the challenges of sterling fluctuations, Fennell added that Irish sheepmeat exports to the UK rose by 8% last year. This was primarily due to less New Zealand lamb being available on the market.

Other growth markets of note include; Denmark (+20%); Sweden (+18%); Hong Kong (+800%); and Canada (+450%).

Sheep marts

The majority of sheep marts are now up and running following the Christmas break and, for the most part, the trade has kicked on from where it left off.

Over recent days, factory and butcher buyers have continued to compete for fat lambs, while the cast ewe segment of the market has also remained relatively strong.

Kilkenny Mart

Yesterday’s sale in Kilkenny Mart, Cillin Hill, featured an entry of 650 sheep; a 100% clearance rate was also achieved on the day.

George Candler, the mart’s auctioneer, said the trade remained solid and lamb prices peaked at €120. Butcher lambs sold at €2.05-2.20/kg, factory lambs made €2.15-2.25/kg and stores traded for €2.20-2.35/kg. In addition, cast ewes made €40-139.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 57kg: €120 or €2.11/kg;
  • 54kg: €111 or €2.06/kg;
  • 48kg: €106 or €2.21/kg;
  • 47kg: €105 or €2.23/kg;
  • 37kg: €87 or €2.35/kg;
  • 36kg: €80 or €2.22/kg.

Carnew Mart

Some 1,868 sheep were on offer at Carnew Mart’s first sheep sale of 2018, held on Thursday last. According to the mart’s David Quinn, the trade for butcher and factory lambs had improved by €2-3/head on the pre-Christmas period.

Heavy lambs (over 50kg) sold for €109-118, factory-type lambs (44-49kg) made €98-114 and €85-101 was achieved for store lambs (37-43kg).

Sample lamb prices:
  • 46kg: €109 or €2.37/kg;
  • 54kg: €118 or €2.19/kg;
  • 41kg: €97 or €2.37/kg;
  • 46kg: €103.50 or €2.25/kg;
  • 36kg: €90 or €2.50/kg;
  • 31kg: €74.50 or €2.40/kg.

A number of ewes also passed through the ring of the Wicklow-based venue. Cast ewes sold for €65-124, in-lamb ewes made €90-165 and ewes with lambs at foot traded at €152-220.

Mountbellew Mart

Last Saturday’s sale in Mountbellew Mart, Co. Galway, featured a smaller entry of sheep. Despite this, there was a good trade for all of the lots on offer. Factory-type lambs sold for €95-110, while prices of €2.10-2.20/kg were achieved for the store lambs on offer.

Sample lambs prices:
  • 38.1kg: €85 or €2.23/kg;
  • 43kg: €95 or €2.21/kg;
  • 53kg: €110 or €2.08/kg;
  • 46kg: €96 or €2.09/kg;
  • 46.5kg: €104 or €2.24/kg;
  • 41kg: €87 or €2.12/kg.

A large number of cast ewes were also on offer and a firm trade was reported for these lots. Cast ewe prices stood at €85-115.