Outlook good for lamb, beef prices

Farmers are sometimes accused of always complaining.

But it seems the outlook is good when it comes to prices for sheep and beef farmers, as Andrew Mooney reports.

The IFA National Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy says the outlook for lamb prices is positive.

He said significant numbers of lambs were moved in the past few weeks to meet demand for the Eid festival.

Farmers have moved lambs at lighter weights this year with average carcase weights back .5kg for the year. This has reduced the volume of sheep meat in the marketplace, a situation replicated in the UK and ensures there won’t be a glut of lambs to come out.

Meanwhile, breeding sales will be starting, and combined with the strong store trade, will provide competition to factories for lambs.

Lamb prices are high in the UK and France ensuring Irish lamb remains very competitive in the marketplace.

The reduced volumes of lamb imported from New Zealand to the EU market, a feature of the past year, will continue as New Zealand exports are directed to the Chinese market. The absence of these imports creates a strong market opportunity for Irish lamb over the coming months.

In the UK, sheep meat production is expected to drop 7% from the previous year. The reopening of the foodservice sector will help strong domestic consumption.

Sean Dennehy says that while lamb prices have performed well this year, this is badly needed to offset the cost of production and the increase in input costs that occurred on farms.

Turning to beef, IFA Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden said market conditions for beef should be favourable for the remainder of the year as markets and buying patterns return to normal.

Mr Golden said supplies of finished cattle would be tight for the rest of the year. Numbers are back to date by over 67,000 head, with the annual kill predicted to be back a further 50,000 head by year-end, with a total of 110 – 120,000 fewer slaughter cattle available than 2020.

The strong performance of the live export trade to Northern Ireland for store and finished cattle, which is expected to continue into the back end of the year, is adding strong competition for farmers and ensuring numbers of finished cattle will be tight up to year-end.

Import demand is expected to strengthen over the coming months as the foodservice sector returns to normal trading conditions. Irish beef has a strong foothold in this sector.

The Chinese demand for protein, redirecting South American beef exports from the EU market, ensures the market is functioning strongly for Irish beef when not undermined by these imports.

Brendan Golden said the favourable market conditions in our main export markets are expected to continue for the year.

But he said this must be reflected in prices paid to farmers.

Despite the positive outlook, both sheep and beef farmers are being urged to bargain hard when selling their animals.