Sheep trade: Some stability restored to the lamb market

As it stands, lamb buyers are currently offering a base price of 480-490c/kg (excluding Quality Assurance Scheme and producer group bonuses) for spring lambs, thus leaving prices on par with last week.

However, the Irish Farmers’ Association’s Sean Dennehy outlined that 500c/kg is available. He noted that the trade has steadied this week and supplies are tighter, with the main issue being under-finished lambs.

Dennehy also highlighted that some plants are taking advantage of the drought conditions and are going way too severe on price cuts for underweight lambs. He said imposing severe cuts at anything below 17kg is too severe in the current environment.

Some procurement managers have continued to highlight that 16kg is the minimum carcass weight and have asked farmers not to kill lambs less than 40kg (liveweight), highlighting that kill-out percentage could be as low as 40%.

Although there is no change in lamb quotes, the ewe market appears to have come under pressure and quotes are sitting at the 260-270c/kg mark – down from 280-290c/kg last week.


Some 49,006 lambs were processed in Department of Agriculture approved sheepmeat export plants during the week ending July 15 – down 2,784 head on the previous week.

However, a supply increase was witnessed in the cast (ewe and ram) category (up 1,029 head), while hogget numbers also declined (down 227 head) during the same week.

Furthermore, overall throughput declined during the week ending July 15; some 60,303 sheep were slaughtered in plants across the country – a decrease of 1,982 head on the previous week’s kill.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes (week ending July 15):
  • Hoggets: 441 head (-227 head or -34%);
  • Spring lambs: 49,006 head (-2,784 head or -5.3%);
  • Ewes and rams: 10,856 head (+1,029 head or +10.4%);
  • Total: 60,303 head (-1,982 head or -3.1%).

In addition, figures from the department also show that over 1.48 million sheep have been processed in approved plants between January 1 and July 15, 2018.

Hogget and cast slaughterings have witnessed increases – up 21,702 head and 42,358 head respectively. Meanwhile, spring lamb numbers are down by 52,559 head on the corresponding period in 2017.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 826,868 head (+21,702 head or +2.7%);
  • Spring lambs: 391,946 head (-52,559 head or -11%);
  • Ewes and rams: 239,545 head (+42,358 head or +21%);
  • Total: 1,458,484 head (+11,080 head or 0.7%).

Mart trade round-up

Carnew Mart

Some 2,125 sheep passed through the ring at Carnew Mart, Co. Wicklow on Thursday last (July 19). A firm trade was reported for all classes with prices similar to the previous week’s sale.

There was a good demand for ewe lambs and cull ewes, while breeding ewes made a top call of €170/head.  On the day, hoggets sold for €140-170/head, while older breeding ewes made €80-130/head.

Sample spring lamb prices:
  • >50kg: €102-108/head;
  • 44-49kg: €92-103/head;
  • 40-44kg: €81-96/head;
  • 35-39kg: €69-86/head;
  • 30-34kg: €67-85/head.

According to the mart manager, David Quinn, heavy cull ewes traded for €88-117/head, while lighter lots sold for €45-80/head.

Kilkenny Mart

A smaller sale of sheep took place at Kilkenny Mart, Cillin Hill, on Monday, prices increased by €3-6/head on the previous week’s sale, according to the mart’s auctioneer, George Candler.

He also noted that cull ewes proved popular, with prices increasing by €4-7/head.

Sample spring lamb prices:
  • 54kg: €116 or €2.15/kg;
  • 52kg: €110 or €2.12/kg;
  • 48kg: €112 or €2.33/kg;
  • 46kg: €100 or €2.17/kg;
  • 44kg: €100 or €2.27/kg;
  • 41kg: €91 or €2.22/kg;
  • 38kg: €80 or €2.11/kg.

In addition, cast ewes traded at €63-125/head.

Raphoe Mart

Monday, July 16, saw a lively trade for all sheep at Raphoe Mart in Co. Donegal, according to the mart’s manager, Anne Harkin.

Dry ewes were reported to trade at €60-115/head.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 30-36kg: €70-80/head;
  • 36-40kg: €80-90/head;
  • 40-43kg: €90-95/head;
  • 43-46kg: €95-100/head;
  • 46-50kg: €100-105/head;
  • 50-58kg: €105-120/head.