Spring lamb prices harden on the back of tighter supplies

Spring lamb prices have hardened considerably as factories have struggled to get in numbers following last week’s price drop.

Last week, spring lamb prices declined by 20c/kg with most factories offering 450c/kg for new season lambs.

However, in a bid to meet demand a number of factories are now offering higher base quotes, with most trying to buy lambs between the 460-475c/kg mark.

One procurement manger told Agriland that farmers have been slow to sell lambs following last week’s price drop and as a result they have increased prices to bring in more lambs.

The ICSA’s Sheep Chair John Brooks said that the spring lamb trade showed some signs of improving last weekend, as factories were paying between 480-490c/kg in order to secure lambs.

Brooks added that factories and butchers are worried about the supply in the coming weeks and he said some are paying up to 500c/kg for the right type of butcher lamb.

The IFA National Sheep Committee Chairman John Lynskey also said that factories are paying 5-10c/kg above the base price in order to secure numbers.

However, despite the jump in spring lamb prices, ewe quotes remain largely unchanged with most processors sitting at a base price of 230-240c/kg.

Spring lamb numbers tighten

Spring lamb numbers have shown some signs of tightening, according to the latest figures from the Department of Agriculture’s sheep kill database.

Figures from the Department show that 44,588 spring lambs were slaughtered during the week ending July 31, back 4,901 head compared to the week before.

And, there has also been a fall in cast ewe and ram throughput, which has dropped by 503 head or 6% on the week earlier.

However, the figures show a jump in the hogget kill (+184 head), bringing the hogget kill for the week ending July 31 to 317 head.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: +184 head (+138%)
  • Spring lambs: -4,901 head (-10%)
  • Ewes and rams: -503 head (-6%)
  • Total: -5,220 head (-9.1%)

Why did spring lamb numbers fall?

According to the IFA National Sheep Committee Chairman John Lynskey, there are a number of reasons for the fall in spring lamb throughput during the week ending July 31.

Speaking to Agriland, Lynskey said that farmers held on the lambs following a factory price cut, which seen prices fall by 10-15c/kg.

He added that there was a shortage of finished lambs and some farmers took advantage of the change in the factory weight limits on August 1 to finish their lambs up to 22kg carcass weights.

Spring lamb numbers continue to lag behind 2015

Official figures from the Department also show that spring lamb slaughterings so far this year are lagging behind the same time in 2015.

According to the Department, there has been 34,048 (6%) fewer spring lamb slaughterings this year compared to last year.

However, despite the fall in spring lamb throughput, the cumulative hogget and cast kill is currently running 7% and 23% higher than the corresponding time in 2015.

When all of the major categories of sheep have been considered, the official figures show that there has been a 3% or 42,764 head increase in sheep slaughterings in Irish plants so far this year.

Sheep kill 882016
Source: Department of Agriculture

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: +42,433 head (+7%)
  • Spring lambs: -34,048 head (-6%)
  • Ewes and rams: +34,733 head (+23%)
  • Total: +42,764 head (+3%)

Main markets

According to Bord Bia, there was some downturn in the British sheep trade last week due to higher supplies.

The SQQ live price for lamb in England and Wales made the equivalent of around 491c/kg last week, down 3c/kg on the week before.

Meanwhile in France, the sheep trade has shown some signs of improving and it is hoped that the demand will rise in the coming week in line with the national holiday.

According to Bord Bia, retail promotions are very plentiful and they are focused mainly on imported and domestically produced product.

Looking at New Zealand, Bord Bia indicates that lamb production is down for the season, mainly due to reduced throughput numbers, but this has been offset somewhat by higher carcass weights.