Sheep trade: Number of heavy lambs coming on stream a ‘concern’

The number of heavy lambs coming on stream over the last while is a “concern”, according to a contact from a meat processing plant.

Over the last few weeks, factories are reporting that they are seeing more heavy lambs being presented for slaughter.

The advice is to be careful when selecting lambs for the factory and to keep in mind that small cuts are what the market is looking for, not big cuts of lamb.

Speaking on the topic of heavy lambs, a contact from one of the meat processing plants said: “There has been a good demand for lambs all year and this has been seen in the prices paid out.

We are seeing more and more heavy lambs coming through the gate over the last few weeks and it is a concern.

“For the majority of the year, farmers have been drafting lambs at the right weights. It’s only recently that we are starting to see heavy lambs, which is what the market doesn’t want.

“The last thing we want is to undo all the hard work and end up in a situation where we are dealing with heavy lambs, which results in big cuts that are hard to market. I’d urge farmers to be more cautious when drafting lambs over the coming weeks.”

In terms of the trade, factory quotes remain the same, with base prices ranging from €4.90/kg up to €5.10/kg. Kildare Chilling remains out in front with a base price of €5.10/kg plus a 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) bonus. 

Irish Country Meats remains on a base of €4.90/kg plus a 10c/kg QA bonus, while Kepak Athleague was not quoting for lambs or ewes on Monday (November 2).

At the lower end of the market, those handling small numbers are reportedly still achieving deals of €5.10-5.20/kg, with some getting 5c/kg more in some cases.

Those involved in producer groups or handling large numbers are reportedly securing deals of between €5.20/kg and €5.30/kg, with some getting 5c/kg extra.

Some factories have officially moved up to a carcass weight of 22kg for lambs. Therefore, it’s important to keep in regular contact with whatever factory you’re dealing with to see what they are paying up to.

Lamb quotes:

  • Kepak Athleague: No quote;
  • Kildare Chilling: 510c/kg + 10c/kg QA – up to a 22kg carcass weight (Monday quote);
  • ICM: 490c/kg + 10c/kg QA – up to a 22kg carcass weight (Monday quote).

Cast ewe quotes:

  • Kepak Athleague: No quote;
  • Kildare Chilling: 250c/kg + 10c/kg QA (Monday quote);
  • ICM: 250c/kg (Monday quote).


For the week ending October 25, the sheep kill amassed to 61,423 head, which is a decrease of over 1,000 head from the week before.

The number of spring lambs processed decreased by 1,511 head and amounted to 51,155 head, for the week ending October 25. To date this year, 8% or 91,277 more lambs have been killed in comparison to the same period in 2019.

Cast (ewe and ram) supplies at the Department of Agriculture approved sheep export plants stood at 9,910 head – an increase of 574 head – for the week ending October 25.

Week-on-week sheep kill supplies (the week ending October 25):

  • Spring lambs: 51,155 head (-1,511 or -2.86%);
  • Ewes and rams: 9,910 head (+574 or +6.14%);
  • Total: 61,423 head (-1,099 or -1.47%).

Cumulative figures for the year to date have reached 2,369,646 head, which is an increase of 112,210 head compared to the 2019 figure of 2,257,436 head.

Data source: Department of Agriculture

Year-on-year sheep kill changes (the week ending October 25):

  • Hoggets: 789,468 head (+37,716 or +5%);
  • Spring lambs: 1,261,989 head (+91,277 or +8%);
  • Ewes and rams: 318,129 head (-136,272 or -5%);
  • Total: 2,369,646 head (+120,217 or +5%).