Sheep trade: Spring lambs take another hit

After dipping by 20c/kg last week, spring lamb quotes have taken another hit this week and are back by a further 10c/kg.

As Monday morning trading commenced, factory buyers were offering quotes of 550-560c/kg (excluding Quality Assurance bonuses) to secure supplies – back from 560-570c/kg last week.

All-in-all, over the past two weeks, spring lamb base quotes have dipped by 30c/kg. On a 20kg carcass, that represents a drop of €6/lamb.

However, the Irish Farmers’ Association’s Sean Dennehy said deals are being down at higher prices and 580c/kg has been muted in some regions.

He noted that lamb supplies are likely to remain tight towards the end of the week and a number of other factors – including: the drought; slowed grass growth rates; smaller crops after a difficult spring; and more meal feeding – is likely to see farmers hold out for more when it comes to marketing their lambs.

On a similar note, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s (ICSA’s) John Brooks said prices of 570-580c/kg were available on Monday.

“Factories are looking for lambs and they don’t appear to be that plentiful in the marts. However, store lambs are continuing to meet a good trade. The ewe market also continues to remain steady,” he said.

Factory buyers are starting negotiations with farmers at 280-300c/kg (paid up to a 40kg carcass) this week for ewes.


Spring lamb supplies have increased steadily over recent weeks and some 45,459 lambs were processed in Department of Agriculture approved sheepmeat export plants during the week ending June 24 – up 2,539 head on the previous week.

Throughput increases were also witnessed in the cast (ewe and ram) categories, while hogget numbers continued to decline on a week-to-week basis.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes (week ending June 24):
  • Hoggets: 3,609 head (-275 head or -7.1%);
  • Spring lambs: 45,459 head (+2,539 head or +5.9%);
  • Ewes and rams: 8,848 head (+288 head or +3.4%);
  • Total: 57,926 head (+2,546 head or +4.6%).

Meanwhile, figures from the department also show that just over 1.27 million sheep have been processed in approved plants between January 1 and June 24.

Hogget and cast slaughterings have both posted increases, while spring lamb numbers are down by 54,683 head or 18% on the corresponding period in 2017.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 824,519 head (+21,428 head or +3%);
  • Spring lambs: 242,901 head (-54,683 head or -18%);
  • Ewes and rams: 209,706 head (+38,125 head or +22%);
  • Total: 1,277,247 head (+4,543 head or 0%).

The marts

Kilkenny Mart

The reduction in lamb quotes by factories meant that buyers were less active than other weeks in Kilkenny Mart, Cillin Hill, the mart’s George Candler said. On the day, spring lambs peaked at €133 – down from €139 last week. The scarcity of grass is also said to be contributing to the lower demand.

Butcher lambs sold at €2.40-2.53/kg, factory types made €2.40-2.50/kg and the store lambs on offer traded at €2.00-2.36/kg.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 55kg: €133 or €2.42/kg;
  • 54kg: €130 or €2.41/kg;
  • 50kg: €126 or €2.52/kg;
  • 46kg: €115 or €2.50/kg;
  • 45kg: €111 or €2.47/kg;
  • 42kg: €104 or €2.48/kg;
  • 37kg: €75 or €2.03/kg;
  • 35kg: €72 or €2.06/kg.

Despite the ease in spring lamb trading, cull ewes continued to meet a solid trade due to the small numbers on offer. Prices on the day ranged from €48 up to €148.

Mountbellew Mart

A larger number of sheep was said to have been on offer at last Saturday’s sale in Mountbellew Mart. Like Kilkenny Mart, lambs met with an easier trade than previous weeks.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 42kg: €98 or €2.33/kg;
  • 41.5kg: €95 or €2.29/kg;
  • 49.3kg: €116 or €2.35/kg;
  • 38.9kg: €90 or €2.31/kg;
  • 45kg: €95 or €2.11/kg;
  • 47.5kg: €110 or €2.32/kg;
  • 40.4kg: €94 or €2.33/kg;
  • 54.5kg: €120 or €2.20/kg.

Additional store lamb supplies were also witnessed in the Galway-based venue and these lots traded at €72-93. Cast ewe throughput remained similar to previous weeks and the prices achieved ranged from €78 up to €135.

Roscommon Mart

Roscommon Mart held its weekly sheep sale on Wednesday last (June 27) and spring lambs sold to a top call of €130. Lambs weighing 40-45kg sold for €2.52-2.74/kg, those falling into the 46-47kg bracket made €2.50-2.65/kg and the heavier lambs (50-55kg) on offer made €2.36-2.40/kg.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 44kg: €114 or €2.59/kg;
  • 41kg: €112.50 or €2.74/kg;
  • 42.7kg: €110 or €2.58/kg;
  • 47.7kg: €120 or €2.52/kg;
  • 46.8kg: €120 or €2.56/kg;
  • 47.2kg: €118 or €2.50/kg;
  • 55kg: €130 or €2.36/kg;
  • 51.3kg: €123 or €2.40/kg.

The trade for cast ewes was similar to previous weeks and prices ranged from €95 up to €125.

Tullow Mart

A very lively trade was reported for forward lambs at Tullow Mart’s weekly sheep sale on Tuesday (June 26). Lambs weighing >45kg sold from €127 up to a top call of €140; the majority of these lots traded at €130-136.

Lambs falling into the 42-45kg bracket made €114-130 and the majority of the well-fleshed 43-44kg lambs sold at €120-125.

Despite the forward lambs remaining strong, some resistance was witnessed in the store lamb market – probably due to the warm weather and a shortage of grass. 37-42kg lambs traded from €83 and €84 all the way up to a top price of €105 for 40-41kg lambs.

Cast ewes sold from €25 to €30 over, while the heavy ewes on offer sold to a top call of €142.

Tuesday also witnessed the opening breeding sale of the year in the Carlow-based venue; hogget ewes sold at €170-192, while three and four-year-old ewes made €140-165.