Factories: Chinese demand drives lamb prices up

“We‘re told there are a lot of sheep gone out of the UK because of Brexit. If that‘s true prospects have to look good,” Jim Bushe of New Ross mart said after his sale yesterday.

With British lamb trading as high €5.16/kg in recent weeks – the best price since 2011 – Jim‘s expectations may be well founded.

In the here and now, factory quotes for lamb rose again yesterday. While that 5-10c/kg increase was less than had been expected in some quarters, it maintains the upward momentum that started nearly a month ago.

The best factory quote for lamb came yet again from Kildare Chilling, with their offering of €4.90+10c/kg quality assurance. This quote is up 10c/kg on last week, while Moyvalley Meats return onto our table at €4.90/kg.

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On the cull ewe side Dawn and Kepak, who jointly led the cull ewe stakes last week on €2.60/kg, remain unchanged but the ICMs and Kildare add 10c/kg to their quotes from last week, bringing them into line with the other two.

Both IFA and ICSA report that prices continue to move up, with €4.90-5.00/kg the general run for lamb. However, €5.10/kg was paid last Friday, both organisations claimed.

IFA sheep chairman Sean Dennehy said: “The outlook looks positive for the remainder of this year and into next spring.”

Mr Dennehy cited China as the main driver of higher global sheep meat prices, given their need for additional sources of protein due to the African Swine Flu outbreak in their pig population.

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As factory prices have risen in the last month so to have carcase weight limits.

While a majority of plants operate a 22kg or 22.5kg limit, some deals I‘m told have been done on the basis of a 23kg upper limit.

All of this positivity continues to filter down to the mart trade, where we see prices bounding upwards.

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George Candler of Kilkenny reported a sharper trade yesterday for both lambs and cull ewes, with heavy lambs making up to €116/hd and factory types seeing a top of €106/hd.

Cull ewes in Kilkenny sold from €64-131/hd yesterday.

“Numbers remain limited and that‘s helping consolidate the trade whether you‘re a butcher, a factory buyer or a farmer looking for stores,” George told me.

On the factory side it‘s always a case of trying to interpret what you‘re being told.

“Not going to happen, not going to go beyond €5,” was the reaction from one agent, while at another plant the tone was more conciliatory: “Prices will hold for a week, or maybe two.”

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What I read out of both is that the Christmas kill is under way and with supplies just about adequate, factories are gauging each other‘s possible supplies.

However, John McNamara of ICSA contends that at €5/kg sheepmen are only just breaking even.

“Once you put €20/hd of feed into the equation, you‘re only barely breaking even at €5/kg,” he claimed.

 

Marts

Carnew

Last week saw yet another large entry of sheep here. Prices for butcher and factory types rose by another €5-7/hd, with 60kg ram lambs seeing a top call of €120/hd. 40-47kg lambs averaged from €88-107/hd.

Among the stores those over 38kgs made from €77-93/hd, with lambs under 35kg making €65-82/hd.

Cull ewes were reported as being better by €5/hd, with heavier batches selling from €100-125/hd, while lighter lots sold from €65-90/hd.

Ballinrobe

Numbers here also continued strong; however with demand outstripping supply, prices trended upwards yet again.

Store lambs sold from €62-109/hd, with ewe lambs making €108-120/hd.

The cull ewe trade saw prices average from €64-106/hd.

Mountbellew

Numbers here were similar to the previous week, with trade reported as very good for all types.

Sample prices included eight 46.5kg ewe lambs at €98/hd, with a further eight at 40kg making €90/hd. Six 50.3kg ram lambs made €102/hd, with seven weighing 53.9kg seeing the call reaching €111/hd. Stags and feeding ewes sold from €55-127/hd.

Tuam

Trade for ewe hoggets saw up to €73/hd with the €1/kg being given here as 53kgs sold for €126/hd.

Cull ewes sold to a top of €119/hd. Sample prices among the lambs saw 48kgs making €115/hd, with 55kgs topping out at €120/hd.

Manorhamilton

The bounce in sheep prices continued here last week with Ivan Moffitt telling me: “All sheep are well up in the last couple of weeks.”

Top price for lambs was €118/hd, while an ever-improving store trade saw prices average €75-79/hd.

New Ross

Jim Bushe was in upbeat form after his sale yesterday. “Trade was strong with us,” he told me. “Our top price was €120/hd for heavy lamb but the price of the day was a pen of 44kg Charolais lambs that made €111/hd.” On average heavy lambs sold from €116-120, with factory types making €103-115/hd.

Indo Farming

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