For the first time in a while, the sheep trade is coming under a bit of pressure, with factories looking to take the heat out of the trade.

No factories were quoting for today (Tuesday, April 20) for spring lambs, hoggets or ewes.

Instead, talking back prices seems to be the name of the game this week.

After seeing prices reach €8.50/kg for spring lambs last week, and €8.00/kg for hoggets, meat processing plants this week are looking to take the heat out of the trade.

Although, with supplies extremely tight both for spring lambs and hoggets, it’s hard to envisage prices coming back to any great extent.

The tight supplies were evident in the weekly kill for the week ending April 11, when throughput fell by over 4,000 head.

Despite talk of prices easing, the trade remains solid. Top prices this week for spring lambs are still holding strong at €8.30/kg and even a bit more in isolated cases at the top end of the market, with the general run of prices being from €8.00-8.20/kg.

Hogget prices are holding firm from €7.70/kg up to €7.90/kg, with €8.00/kg still being secured by some.

Looking in at sales held yesterday and speaking to mart managers after, there appeared to be no slip in prices for spring lambs or hoggets, with the trade holding very firm and demand remaining strong.

Although the same can’t be said for the ewe trade, with prices slipping back slighty but not to any major extent.

‘Factories up to their old tricks’

To get the latest insight on the sheep trade this week, Agriland spoke to Sean McNamara, the sheep chairperson of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

He said: “Factories are looking to pull prices, but they are going to find it hard to do, with supplies so tight.

“Spring lambs are a month behind this year and we are coming to the tail end of the hoggets – so I can’t see where they plan on getting a hold of numbers.

“They are simply trying to take the heat out of the trade. I’d be telling farmers not to panic and if you have any spring lambs ready, go to the mart with them.

“If you send lambs to the factory, the most you will get is €166 at a 20kg carcass weight. You can see yourself at marts, factory-fit lambs are making €170-190/head,” he continued.

“The numbers are just not there for factories to be able to pull prices, so I wouldn’t be panicking.

“In terms of prices, spring lambs this week are up at €8.30/kg, with hogget price still much the same around €7.90-8.00/kg.”


The sheep kill for the week ending April 11, amounted to 37,957 head, which was a drop of 4,397 head on the week before.

The number of hoggets processed amounted to 31,435 head – back 4,991 head on the previous week.

The number of spring lambs slaughtered at meat processing plants, however, saw an increase of 1,107 head to 2,497 head.

Ewe and ram throughput, similar to the hoggets, saw a decline of 510 head.

  • Hoggets: 31,435 head (-4,991 or -13.7%);
  • Ewes and rams: 4,022 head (-371 or -11.25%);
  • Spring lambs: 2,497 head (+1,107 or +79.6%);
  • Total: 37,957 head (-4,397 or -10.4%).

Looking at throughput figures to date, 636,808 sheep have been processed thus far.

Of that figure, 559,733 head have been hoggets, while 3,887 have consisted of spring lambs.

Data source: DAFM

Ewe and ram throughput makes up the rest – at 73,103 head.

If we compare figures to date this year, against the same period in 2020, we can see that the total number of sheep slaughtered is back 56,054 head.

46,952 less hoggets have been processed to date in comparsion to the same period last year.

Nearly 11,000 fewer ewes and rams have been slaughtered as well, with only spring lamb throughput seeing an increase on this time last year – up 1,534 head.

  • Lambs/hoggets: 559,733 head (-46,952 or -8%);
  • Spring lambs: 3,887 head (+1,534 or +65%);
  • Ewes and rams: 73,103 head (-10,703 or -13%);
  • Total: 636,808 head (-56,054 or -8%).