After severe cuts in prices last week for spring lambs and hoggets, the trade this week has steadied-up somewhat.

Due to a strong demand driven by Ramadan – which is soon coming to a close (May 12) – and very tight supplies, factories have had to rethink their tone on pulling prices any further.

Looking at the supply situation, hogget numbers are drying up very fast at marts, with many coming on stream now not suitable for the factory.

On top of that, the number of spring lambs coming on stream is still small and isn’t making up for the sharp decline in hoggets numbers.

What is also worth noting is the sharp decline in the number of live lambs coming to the south for direct slaughter.

According to Bord Bia, live imports of lambs for direct slaughter in the Republic of Ireland have reached 73,177 head so far this year (week ending April 24), which is a decline of over 30,500 head (-30%) compared to 12 months ago.

All these factors combined make it very hard for factories to pull prices any further and expect farmers to play ball – as there continues to be a strong demand.

Factory prices

Looking at what factories are quoting, Kildare Chilling is back on the table this week, with a quote of €7.70/kg for spring lambs and €7.10/kg for hoggets, both including a 10c/kg quality assurance (QA) bonus.

Irish Country Meats (ICM) is unchanged on last week, with a quote of €7.50/kg for spring lambs and €7.00/kg for hoggets, again, both including a 10c/kg QA bonus.

It’s worth pointing out that Kildare Chilling is paying up to a carcass weight of 20kg for spring lambs, while ICM has moved up to 20.5kg this week for spring lambs.

No quote from Kepak Athleague once again this week.

At the top end of the market, those moving spring lambs are reportedly securing prices of between €7.70/kg and €7.90/kg, with isolated reports of up to €8.00/kg being secured.

In terms of hoggets, prices at the top end of the market appear to be ranging from €7.20/kg up to €7.40/kg.

Ewe trade

Despite the pull in prices for spring lambs and hoggets last week, the trade for ewes remained firm and this week, it appears to be moving in an upward trajectory.

Some plants have moved to increase quotes for ewes by up to 20c/kg, with base prices now hovering around the €3.20/kg mark.

Those at the top end of the market are believed to be securing deals of €3.30-3.50/kg.

ICSA comment

To get the thoughts on the sheep trade at present, Agriland spoke to the sheep chairperson of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), Sean McNamara.

He said: “The trade has steadied up this week, as demand is strong and supplies are tight which has led to a solid floor being put under the trade.

“Supplies are extremely tight. I know we keep saying it every week, but that’s just the reality of it.

“There’s nothing really in the marts. Hoggets are drying up fierce quick and spring lambs are slow to come on stream.

“This is helping to give more power to the seller and put them in a stronger position when negotiating with factories,” he added.

“Factories are hungry for numbers and are more active this week in an attempt to tie down supplies.

“If you’re getting nowhere with the factories, the mart is as good as anywhere.

“Looking at the trade, spring lambs are moving at €7.80/kg up to €7.90/kg at the top end of the market, with hoggets moving at €7.30-7.40/kg,” he concluded.

  • Kildare Chilling: 770c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • ICM: 750c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • Kepak Athleague: No quote.
  • Kildare Chilling: 710c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • ICM: 700c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • Kepak Athleague: No quote.
  • Kildare Chilling: 320c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • ICM: 320c/kg;
  • Kepak Athleague: No quote.