Spring lamb trade under pressure as skin prices looks set to fall

Spring lamb prices have tumbled this week, with most factories now offering a base price of 470c/kg for new season lambs.

Last week, the majority of processors were offering base prices of 480-490c/kg for these lots, but a weakness in the skin trade has been blamed for lower prices this week.

A number of procurement managers told Agriland that the trade is not being helped by lower prices for fifth quarter products and especially skins.

And as a result, some factories are offering Monday-only quotes.

One spring lamb buyer said that Chinese demand for skins has weakened in recent days and farmers could possibly face a €2/skin storage or disposal charge if the market does not improve in the short term.

Procurement managers have also urged farmers to ensure that lambs presented for slaughter are clean, as sending dirty sheep for slaughter may result in a severe quality penalty.

However, despite the weaker market for spring lambs, the cast ewe trade remains on par with last week as most procurement managers are willing to pay 230-240c/kg for suitable cast ewes.

Spring lamb numbers fall 5%

The number of spring lambs slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved sheepmeat export plants fell by 5% during the week ending July 17 compared to the week before.

According to figures from the Department of Agriculture, almost 2,500 fewer spring lambs were slaughtered in Ireland during the week ending July 17 compared to the week before.

However, despite the fall in new season lamb numbers, both the hogget and cast ewe and ram kill increased by 61% (+182 head) and 4.5% (+326 head) respectively.

In total, the weekly sheep kill for the week ending July 17 stood at 58,037 head, down 3% or 1,898 head compared to the week before.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: +182 head (+61%)
  • Spring lambs: -2,452 head (-4.7%)
  • Ewes and rams: +326 head (+4.5%)
  • Total: -1,898 head (-3%)

Cumulative sheep kill

According to figures from the Department of Agriculture’s sheep kill database, there have been 4% more sheep slaughtered this year compared to the same time in 2015.

Hogget and cast throughput increased by 7% (42,367 head) and 25% (34,296 head) respectively on 2015 levels.

However, spring lamb throughput continues to lag 5% behind 2015 levels, with just 461,356  slaughtered to the week ending July 17.

This means that almost 26,000 fewer spring lambs have been slaughtered so far this year compared to the same time in 2015.

Sheep kill 2572016
Source: Department of Agriculture

Main markets

The British sheep trade has continued to meet upward momentum, according to Bord Bia, mainly due to tighter supplies and a weaker Sterling which has made exports more competitive.

The SQQ live price for lamb in England and Wales made the equivalent of around €4.94/kg deadweight last week.

Bord Bia also reports that the French trade has slowed down due to an ease in demand on the back of the holiday season.

Last week, French retail promotions focused mainly on imported and domestic sheepmeat such as legs and chops and Grade 1 lamb made around €5.57/kg deadweight.