Modest rise but farmers await proper dividend
CALLING where the sheep trade might go at any time is never simple. For example, a lot of farmers I spoke to recently were despondent about where the trade was at.
Many speculated that strong numbers of fit lambs could easily see factory prices remain fairly static all the way to Christmas. Others reckoned that any movement would be confined to 5-10c/kg one way or the other.
I believe that barring some major catastrophe prices for lamb will probably follow the same path as they did last year when prices gradually picked up through November before hitting a plateau in early December of €4.80-4.85/kg, and then moving on to €4.905.00/kg early in the new year.
Should that happen again it might not be such a bad result, given that numbers are up considerably since 2016. Back in 2016 official lamb quotes ended the year ranging from €4.50-4.65/kg.
With numbers of sheep going through the system heading ever upwards, figures up to the end of October show them as being 3pc above the same 10 months in 2017.
Given that sheep slaughterings in 2017 were almost 10pc above 2016, the current market price is a testament to how strong the underlying trade is.
All of which is very positive for the industry overall, but farmers feel they are still waiting for a proper dividend.
Yesterday, quotes for lamb crept up by 5-10c/kg.
The two ICM plants and Dawn Ballyhaunis were all up 10c/kg to €4.60+10c/kg QA, still lagging behind Kildare Chilling (up 5c to €4.65/kg + 10c/kg QA) and Kepak Athleague (€4.65/kg + 5c/kg QA).
What all this means is that prices haven’t really pushed on that much at all.
What has happened is that the plants that were lagging off Kepak’s pace last week chose yesterday to officially close a gap that had stood as wide as 15c/kg.
I would argue that the move has strengthened the floor for lamb while not really pushing it any further along than €4.80/kg.
Among the farming organisations IFA’s national sheep chairman Sean Dennehy said the lamb trade remained steady with factories paying €4.70-4.80/kg, with some top prices of €4.85 plus.
John Brooks of ICSA reckoned that apart from special deals being possibly done with groups at €4.85/kg, the on-the-ground price remained as it was last week at €4.80/ kg.
On the cull ewe front Dawn Ballyhaunis yesterday pulled themselves in line with all the other players in the culls league as they lifted their quote for ewes by 5c/kg to €2.40/kg.