Quotes took another hit yesterday as factories continued to put pressure on finishing, with lamb back 10-20c/kg and ewes 30c/kg lower.
Over the weekend, I asked several factory representatives about the state of the trade and why prices have bounced back.
According to them, the market is strong for good meat lamb, they are dealing with too much half lamb and tulsa.
So they focus on regular suppliers that they know are feeding and whose stock meets the requirements they want.
Processors argue that poorer stock affects their operating costs.
“Trade is slow because there are so many poorly finished dogs and sheep that all need to be boned,” said one representative.
The message for farmers is not just to weigh their lambs, but to manage them to make sure they are meaty enough.
They told me: “If they have little meat, bring them to the market.”
The next rep chimed in further: “We try to keep our regular suppliers on hand – guys we know who feed and whose lambs tick all the boxes.”
While shipments for the week ended September 25 reached 66,099 versus 58,971 in the same week last year, there was no question of sales woes once the product was right.
The factories’ argument did not wash with ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara, who emphasized the realities of the economy inside the farm gate.
“How can we be expected to feed food at the prices given by the factories?” he said.
“It costs €30-€40 to feed a lamb, which at current prices is €1.50/kg off the base price, so we’re told you’d have to pick up €4.80 in real terms. 4.90/kg for lamb.
“Consumers want cheap food, factories and supermarkets want a quick profit – and the farmer is expected to hold the box for both.”
Sean said lambs were selling at €6.30-6.40/kg yesterday and ewes at €3.00-3.20/kg.
IFA sheep board chairman Kevin Comiskey said prices were steady at €6.20-€6.50/kg, with higher prices for larger lots and bargains at 22kg as numbers of good meat lambs remained tight.
Bulk sheep generally range from €3.10/kg to €3.70/kg.
“Demand in March is good for heavy, well-fleshed lambs supported by tight supplies,” he said. “He said the shop lamb trade was also improving in some markets and that good grass growth was helping.”
David Foulken of Ballymote Mart pointed out that as costs rise, buyers of fattening lambs are becoming more selective.
“Kids are buying less but better quality — it’s kind of a numbers versus cost equation,” he said.
He saw less demand for breeding sheep.
A strong turnout offered 900 ewes, but David Foulken said lean lamb numbers were increasing and this was reflected in the price.
“Your well-fleshed 49-50kg lamb sold at €146-148/hd, but similar weight but leaner lambs were around €20/hd cheaper at €129/hd,” he said.
Store ewe lambs 38-42kg made €108-124/hd with ram lambs of similar weights €90-110/hd.
53-70 kg were sold at 40-90 euros, and 80-95 kg at 150-186 euros.
Thomas Potterton reported larger numbers with 550 offers.
Lambs under 35kg saw a top payment of €96/hd for eight 33kg. The overall average price in the 35-40kg class was €90/hd, with the highest price being €99 for eight 37.5kg/hd.
40-45kg stores averaged €114.50/hd and four 44.5kg lambs made €124/hd; Factory lambs weighing 45-50kg averaged €122.50/hd, with the top price seeing eight 45.5kg lambs make €124hd.
On the butcher side, the average price was €135.5/hd, with the highest price seen reaching €138 per 51kg.
A special entry of 90 breeding rams fetched a top price of 650 guineas.
Yesterday the numbers here were steady, with just 600 sheep on offer. The trade was said to be “about sustaining itself”, with lambs selling at between €2.60 and €3.00/kg in stores overall. Iv ewes sold between €45-125/hd. Sample prices include twenty-five 47kg for €141/hd, six 56kg for €150/hd and thirteen 47kg for €129/hd.
On the store side, ten 37.5kg lambs averaged €102/hd, eight at 36.5kg at €109/hd and another eight at 38.5kg at €109/hd.
Yesterday, 500 sheep were offered here. George Candler noted a few more store customers and said trade was “sharper” for both butcher and factory-style lambs.
These butcher types ranged from €132-147/hd and this high call reached thirteen at 54kg.
On the factory side, the top price was €133/hd for ten 46kg and the overall price range was €118-133/hd.
Stores ranged from €78-€115, with most selling between €90-113/hd, while nineteen 38kg ewe lambs rose to €118/hd or €3.11/kg. Fall ewes were €60-160/hd.
Last Thursday’s sale was the biggest sale of the year, with 6,200 ewes on offer. Ewes and breeding ewes were steady, but lambs were up €1-2/hd.
Butchers’ lambs sold between €136-148/hd and factory lambs at €122-135/hd.
On the store side, lambs weighing less than 35 kg were 71-105 euros/hd, and those above 35,000 were 85-110 euros/hd.
Hoggets sold at €140-210/hd with older breeding ewes and rams at €250-550.
Heavy shed ewes made €160-210/hd with feed €55-140/hd.