Strong supplies hamper spring lamb price increases

For another week, the spring lamb trade continues to remain difficult and processors are slow to let their grasp on the market ease.

Strong supplies – combined with a sterling valued at £0.89 to €1 – has been cited as the primary reason for these lower quotes.

As it stands, procurement managers are offering 450-460c/kg for spring lambs up to 21.5kg. Like last week, Kildare Chilling continues to lead the way with an offering of 460c/kg +10c/kg quality assurance (QA) bonus.

Kepak Athleague – although fully booked from today, October 2 – is offering 455c/kg +10c/kg QA and the two Irish Country Meats’ sister plants – located in Navan and Camolin – are working off 450c/kg +10c/kg.

Looking at ewe returns, factory buyers are offering 240-250c/kg for suitably-fleshed ewes this week; these prices are available up to 40kg.

Clean Livestock Policy

Although issues surrounding the Clean Livestock Policy (CLP) came to the fore early last week, the recent spell of dry weather is set to see the number of category B and category C sheep drop significantly.

However, where lambs are being ad-lib fed meals or where poaching has occurred, it’s advisable to pay careful attention to the lamb’s fleece to see if clipping is required prior to slaughter.

A lot of the animosity faced by the policy last year occurred when farmers were unsure of why their lambs were ‘unsatisfactory’ for slaughter. With this in mind, it’s no harm to be aware of the requirements before being disappointed at the gates of the lairage.

Also Read: ‘The daggers isn’t the answer for dirty sheep’


Figures from the Department of Agriculture show that some 67,458 sheep were processed during the week ending September 23 – a drop of only 2,761 head when compared to the previous week.

However, it’s worth noting that the previous week’s kill was strong at 70,219 head and – as last week’s drop is coming from an already strong position – it’s unlikely to have any major impact on the prices being offered by processing plants.

And, although spring lamb throughput declined by over 2,500 head during the week ending September 23, only a small decrease in cast (ewe and ram) slaughterings was observed.

Week-on-week sheep kill changes (week ending September 23):
  • Hoggets: 42 head (-94 head or -69%);
  • Spring lambs: 53,861 head (-2,567 head or -4.5%);
  • Ewes and rams: 13,552 head (-103 head or -4.5%);
  • Total: 67,458 head (-2,761 head or -3.9%).

Meanwhile, looking at the cumulative sheep kill for 2018 up to and including the week ending September 23, almost 2.13 million sheep were slaughtered in export approved sheepmeat plants.

Throughput increases were witnessed in the hogget and ewe and ram categories, while spring lamb numbers are running 21,640 head or 2% behind the quantities witnessed in 2017.

Year-on-year sheep kill changes:
  • Hoggets: 828,683 head (+22,128 head or +3%);
  • Spring lambs: 939,911 head (-21,640 head or -2%);
  • Ewes and rams: 360,570 head (+53,721 head or +18%);
  • Total: 2,129,296 head (+53,534 head or +3%).

The marts

Carnew Mart

Some 2,600 sheep were entered in last Thursday’s sale in Carnew Mart, Co. Wicklow. A very good selling trade was reported, with more farmer customers present around the ring.

On the day, lambs >50kg sold for €97-106 and those falling into the 40-44kg category traded at €85-92. A selection of store lambs was also on offer, with 35-39kg lambs selling at €77-86 and the lighter lots (>35kg) made €63-78.

In addition to the lamb trade, the cull ewe trade also appeared to be strong, with heavy cull ewes selling at €90-120 and lighter types making €45-80.

When it came to the breeding section of the sale, hogget ewes sold for €90-155 and older breeding ewes made €70-130.

Ballinasloe Mart

Moving west to Ballinasloe Mart, an average lamb price of €86/head was recorded on Thursday last; the top price climbed to €127.

In terms of breeding stock, hoggets traded to an average of €134/head, while older ewes sold to an average of €105 – the top price is this category was €158.

A number of cast ewes were also on offer and these sold to an average of €71; the top cast ewe price on the day stood at €113.

Roscommon Mart

A larger number of sheep were offered at last Wednesday’s sheep sale in Roscommon Mart, where prices for lambs peaked at €108. In addition, store lambs sold up to €86 and ewe lambs reached €132.

Sample lamb prices:
  • 51.2kg: €108 or €2.11/kg;
  • 51.3kg: €103 or €2.01/kg;
  • 56.7kg: €102 or €1.80/kg;
  • 37.2kg: €86 or €2.31/kg;
  • 44kg: €80 or €1.82/kg;
  • 36.9kg: €75.50 or €2.05/kg;
  • 56.4kg ewe lambs: €132 or €2.34/kg;
  • 52.2kg ewe lambs: €110 or €2.11/kg;
  • 44.8kg ewe lambs: €107 or €2.39/kg.

Meanwhile, cast ewes were reported to have met a similar trade to previous weeks and prices ranged from €31 up to €90.