Sheep trade: Spring lamb quotes slip once again

Not much good news on the spring lamb front for farmers this week, as prices come under pressure once again.

Lamb quotes have been knocked back a further 10-15c/kg compared to this time last week.

At the moment, base quotes – for spring lambs – are ranging from 575c/kg up to 580c/kg.

Processors are saying that these cuts were likely to come after the end of Ramadan and just the way market conditions are at the moment. The increasing number of spring lambs coming onto the market also seems to be a factor in the recent price cuts.

Spring lamb throughput continues to increase week-on-week. During the week ending May 24, some 40,725 lambs were processed, which is a sharp increase of over 10,700 head compared to the same period last year.

It is important that farmers make sure they check what factories are paying up to in terms of carcass weight before they send stock to the factory. There is a bit of variation among plants to what they are paying up to for spring lambs. Irish Country Meats (ICM) increased its weight limit – for spring lambs – from 20.5kg up to 21kg this week.

Hogget quotes are hovering around the 490c/kg mark. Hogget throughput has gradually been decreasing week-on-week. During the week ending May 24, some 7,817 hoggets were processed, which is a sharp decrease from the 16,193 hoggets that were processed this time last year.

However, during the first few months of 2020, the hogget throughput was significantly higher than that of the previous year, so that is more than likely a contributing factor to the slack numbers that we are seeing currently.

All three processing plants are offering a base price of 250c/kg for cast ewes. Even when quality assurance (QA) bonuses are taken into account, it is still only leaving quotes for ewes around the 250-260c/kg mark.

Speaking about the recent price cuts over the bank holiday weekend, sheep chairman of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), Sean McNamara, said: “Lambs are still not that plentiful and with demand remaining strong at retail level the price cuts we are seeing are completely unjustified.

Time and again we see factories pulling excuses out of the bag in an attempt to explain these price cuts and it just doesn’t wash.

“Lamb is not getting any cheaper for the consumer – yet the farmer is being expected to produce it for less, just because it is a bank holiday.”

Quotes

Taking a look at the quotes on offer, ICM and Kepak Athleague (Wednesday quote) are offering a base price of 575c/kg for spring lambs, while Kildare Chilling (Tuesday quote) is offering a base price of 580c/kg.

When quality assurance (QA) bonuses are factored in, this leaves quotes at 585-590c/kg for spring lambs.

Taking a look at the quotes for hoggets, ICM (Tuesday quote) is offering a base price of 490c/kg, while Kildare Chilling (Tuesday quote) is also offering a base price of 490c/kg.

When QA bonuses are factored in, this leaves quotes at 500c/kg for hoggets.

Turning to the cast ewe quotes, all three processing plants are offering a base price of 250c/kg. When QA bonuses are factored in, this leaves quotes at 250-260c/kg for ewes.

Spring lamb quotes:

  • ICM: 575c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • Kepak Athleague: 575c/kg + 15c/kg QA;
  • Kildare Chilling: 580c/kg + 10c/kg QA.

Hogget quotes:

  • ICM: 490c/kg + 10c/kg QA;
  • Kildare Chilling: 490c/kg + 10c/kg QA.

Cast ewe quotes: 

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

Throughput

For the week ending May 24, the number of spring lambs processed increased by over 18,200 head compared to the previous week.

Hogget throughput is well behind on last year’s levels. During the week ending May 24, the number of hoggets processed amounted to 7,817.

Cast (ewe and ram) supplies at the Department of Agriculture approved sheep export plants stood at 7,583 head – an increase of 3,070 head – for the week ending May 24.

Week-on-week sheep kill supplies (week ending May 24):

  • Hoggets: 7,817 head (+147 or +1.91%);
  • Spring lambs: 40,725 head (+18,281 or +81%);
  • Ewes and rams: 4,513 head (+3,070 or +68%);
  • Total: 56,125 head (+21,498 or +62%).

Moreover, overall supplies increased by 21,498 head during the week ending May 24 and amounted to 56,125 head.

Data source: Department of Agriculture

Cumulative figures for the year to date have reached 1,022,544 head, which is an increase of 45,783 head compared to the 2019 figure of 976,761 head.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes (week ending May 24):

  • Hoggets: 774,422 head (+51,894 or +7%);
  • Spring lambs: 122,519 head (+14,982 or +14%);
  • Ewes and rams: 125,575 head (-21,111 or -14%);
  • Total: 1,022,544 head (+45,783 or +5%).