Sheep trade: Prices steady, as farmers lick their wounds from last week’s price cuts

‘The less said about it the better’ is what every sheep farmer will be saying after what they endured last week in terms of factory prices.

In total, between Monday and Tuesday, 40c/kg and 70c/kg were knocked off base quotes for spring lambs and hoggets respectively.

Up until last week, prices for lambs and hoggets were steadily rising to what they were prior to Covid-19. However, that momentum was firmly ground to a halt and it doesn’t look like it’s going to take off anytime soon again.

The supply is there, especially when it comes to spring lambs, according to processors; it’s the lack of demand that is the problem. Ramadan doesn’t seem to have taken off – as what would have been expected.

Processors have also reported a large number of overweight and large-framed hoggets being presented to factories, which results in large cuts of meat that are not what the consumers want.

Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll on some meat processing facilities, which, obviously, isn’t helping either.

Kepak Athleague wasn’t in a position to quote this week, citing that too much uncertainty is surrounding the market at present.

Sean McNamara of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) accused processors last week of “toying with producers in a cynical effort to flush out supplies and drive down prices”, which is what many farmers will be thinking is the case.

However, is it maybe just a case that the demand isn’t there at the moment? Either way, it hasn’t been a good week for sheep farmers, with the pull in factory prices also affecting the mart trade as well, with spring lamb and hogget prices back at €5/head and even more in some marts.

Quotes

Kepak Athleague was not quoting for spring lambs, hoggets and cast ewes on Tuesday, May 5.

Taking a look at the quotes on offer, Irish Country Meats (ICM) (Tuesday quote) is offering a base price of 600c/kg – up to a carcass weight of 20kg – for spring lambs.

Whereas, Kildare Chilling (Tuesday quote) is offering a base price of 610c/kg for spring lambs up to a carcass weight of 20kg.

When quality assurance (QA) bonuses are factored in, this leaves quotes at 610-620c/kg for spring lambs.

Taking a look at the quotes for hoggets, ICM (Tuesday quote) is offering a base price of 550c/kg, while Kildare Chilling (Tuesday quote) is also offering a base price of 550c/kg.

When quality assurance (QA) bonuses are factored in, this leaves quotes at 560c/kg for hoggets.

Turning to the cast ewe quotes, Kildare Chilling (Tuesday quote) is offering a base price of 270c/kg. ICM (Tuesday quote) is offering 250c/kg.

When QA bonuses are taken into account, this leaves quotes at 250-270c/kg.

Spring lamb quotes:

  • ICM: 600c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • Kildare Chilling: 610c/kg + 10c/kg QA.

Hogget quotes:

  • ICM: 550c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • Kildare Chilling: 550c/kg + 10c/kg QA.

Cast ewe quotes: 

  • ICM: 250c/kg;
  • Kildare Chilling: 270c/kg + 10c/kg QA.

Throughput

During the week ending April 26, the number of hoggets processed increased by 6,779 head and amounted to 37,194 head.

Furthermore, the number of spring lambs processed amounted to 8,257 for the week ending April 26.

Cast (ewe and ram) supplies at the Department of Agriculture approved sheep export plants stood at 6,265 head – an increase of 1,826 head – for the week ending April 26.

Week-on-week sheep kill supplies (week ending April 26):

  • Hoggets: 37,194 head (+6,779 or +22%);
  • Spring lambs: 8,257 head (+3,460 or +72%);
  • Ewes and rams: 6,265 head (+1,826 or +41%);
  • Total: 51,720 head (+12,069 or +30%).

Moreover, overall supplies increased by 12,069 head during the week ending April 26 and amounted to 51,720 head.

Cumulative figures for the year to date have reached 834,389 head, which is an increase of over 70,675 head compared to the 2019 figure of 763,714 head.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes (week ending April 26):

  • Hoggets: 716,055 head (+89,090 or +14%);
  • Spring lambs: 19,240 head (+819 or +4%);
  • Ewes and rams: 99,072 head (-19,249 or -16%);
  • Total: 834,389 head (+70,675 or +9%).

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