Sheep trade: ‘Factories anxious for lambs and struggling to secure numbers’

Procurement managers are starting negotiations with sheep farmers at 500c/kg (excluding quality assurance (QA) and producer group bonuses) for hoggets.

When QA payments are factored in, this brings prices to 510-515c/kg, while factory agents are currently offering 260c/kg (excluding the Quality Assurance Scheme bonus) for well-fleshed ewes.

Kepak is quoting 500c/kg and 15c/kg QA, while both Irish Country Meats’ plants are paying 500c/kg and 10c/kg QA. Kildare Chilling had no quote when contacted.

Hogget quotes:
  • Kildare Chilling: No quote;
  • Kepak Athleague: 500c/kg + 15c/kg;
  • ICM Camolin: 500c/kg +10c/kg;
  • ICM Navan: 500c/kg +10c/kg.

However, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) Sheep Committee chairman, Sean Dennehy, factories are anxious to source lambs and are finding it difficult to secure adequate numbers.

In an update issued today (Tuesday, March 19), Dennehy said that the lamb trade remains solid with prices expected to increase over the coming weeks as a result of Easter and Ramadan giving rise to additional demand and tighter supplies.

He said: “Factories are paying from €5.40/kg to €5.50/kg for quality lambs, with feeders holding out for €5.60/kg. Ewes are making from €2.85/kg to €3.00/kg.

Good butcher lambs are scarce and buyers are prepared to pay more to get the right article.

Continuing, Dennehy outlined that supplies have already “tightened considerably” with the weekly kill for the week ending March 10 back 20% on last year’s figures – down to 37,626 head from 45,132 head for the same week last year.

He said this has left supplies tight at the factories with agents and procurement managers having to pay “significantly over the quoted price to get stock”.

Dennehy said increased demand and buying for Easter on April 20 and Ramadan on May 5 is expected to kick in soon and this should boost the trade over the coming weeks and months ahead.

Concluding, the IFA’s sheep chairman drew attention to the fact that lamb prices were also rising in the UK with the deadweight price at £4.19/kg, which is equivalent to €5.14/kg including VAT.