More cuts as factories grumble about unfinished sheep

Quotations took another hit yesterday as mills continued to put pressure on processors, with rack of lamb down 10-20 cents/kg and leg of sheep 30 cents/kg.

Over the weekend I asked several factory representatives about the state of play and why prices have returned.

They feel the market for good meat lamb is good, they have to deal with too many unfinished lambs and culling.

So they focus on regular suppliers who they know feed and whose stocks meet the requirements they want.

Processors argue that poorer stock levels affect their operating costs.

“Trade is slow because there are too many poorly processed cullets and ewes, all of which need to be deboned,” a representative said.

The message for farmers is not just to weigh their lambs, but to treat them so that they have sufficient meat.

“If they’re underflesh, they should take them to market,” I was told.

The next spokesman added: “We’re trying to keep our regular suppliers local – lads we know who feed them and whose lambs meet all the requirements.”

There was no talk of difficulties in terms of sales once the product was ok, although shipments for the week ended September 25 reached 66,099 versus 58,971 for the same week last year.

The factories’ argument, however, disagreed with ICSA Sheep Chairman Sean McNamara, who highlighted the realities of the economy behind the farm gate.

“How can we be expected to feed meals at the prices that the factories give?” he said.

“Fattening a lamb with a meal costs €30-40/hd, which at current prices takes €1.50/kg off the base price, which means we are told you are between €4.80 and €4.80 in real terms have to take. 4.90/kg for lamb.

“Consumers want cheap food, factories and supermarkets want a quick profit – and the farmer is expected to hold the can for both.”

Sean reported that lambs were selling between €6.30 and €6.40/kg yesterday, with culled ewes between €3.00 and €3.20/kg.

Kevin Comiskey, Chair of the IFA Sheep, said that given the continued shortage of good meat lambs, prices are stable at €6.20-6.50/kg, with higher prices for larger lots and offers up to 22kg.

Slaughter sheep generally range between €3.10/kg and €3.70/kg.

“Demand in the markets is good for heavy, well-behaved lambs, helped by tight stocks,” he said. “He said in-store lamb trade has also improved in some markets, helped by good grass growth.”

Ballymote Mart’s David Faulken found that those who buy lamb for fattening are very selective given the increased cost.

“Guys buy less but better quality – it’s kind of a number-cost equation,” he said.

He also saw less demand for breeding sheep.

Around the markets


A strong turnout saw 900 sheep on offer but David Faulken said the number of underfleshed lambs is increasing and this was reflected in the price.

“Their good meat 49-50kg lamb was selling for €146-148/hr, but similar weight but little meat lamb was earning about €20/hr less at €129/hr,” he said.

Lambs of 38-42 kg from the store made 108-124 €/h, similarly heavy ram lambs 90-110 €/h.

Trade in culled sheep was more ‘sticky’, with 53-70 kg selling for €40-90/h, while 80-95 kg selling for €150-186/h.


Thomas Potterton reported larger numbers with 550 bids.

Lambs under 35 kg saw a top call of 96 €/h, paid for eight 33 kg. In the 35-40kg class, the overall average price was €90/hour, with the eight 37.5kg top call achieving €99/hour.

40-45 kg lambs cost an average of €114.50/h, four lambs of 44.5 kg cost €124/h; 45-50kg factory lambs averaged €122.50/hour, with the top call achieving eight 45.5kg lambs at €124/hour.

On the butcher side, the average price was €135.50/hour, with the top 51 kg call reaching €138/hour.

A special entry of 90 breeding bucks fetched a top price of 650 guineas.


The numbers here were stable yesterday with just under 600 sheep on offer. Trade has been reported to be ‘tight’, with lambs generally selling between €2.60 and €3.00/kg, with lambs also costing between €2.60 and €3.00/kg on average. Slaughtered ewes are sold for €45-125/hd. Example prices included twenty-five 47 kg at €141/hr, six 56 kg at €150/hr. and thirteen 47 kg at €129/hr.

In the store, ten lambs at 37.5 kg cost an average of €102/hour, eight at 36.5 kg €109/hour, while another eight lambs at 38.5 kg also fetched €109/hour


500 sheep were on offer here yesterday. Noting a few more shoppers, George Candler said the trade in butcher and factory lambs is “sharper”.

These butcher types ranged from €132 to €147/hour, with the top call going to thirteen at 54kg.

On the factory side, the maximum price was €133/h for ten 46 kg, giving a total price range of €118-133/h.

Stores achieved €78-115/h with most sales ranging between €90-113/h while nineteen 38kg lambs clicked at €118/h or €3.11/kg. Cast ewes earned €60-160/hd.

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Last Thursday’s sale was the largest this year with 6,200 sheep on offer. Cover ewes and breeding ewes were stable, but lambs increased by 1-2 €/hd.

Butcher lambs are sold at €136-148/h, factory lambs at €122-135/h.

On the shop side, lambs under 35 kg earned €71-105/h and lambs over €35,000 earned 85-110/h.

Hoggets earned €140-210/hour, older breeding sheep €110-180, while rams sold €250-550/hour.

Heavy cast ewes yielded €160-210/hour with feed types €55-140/hour. More cuts as factories grumble about unfinished sheep

Fry Electronics Team

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