“The difficulties in the sheep sector are increasing as factories drop prices again,” according to the IFA’s national sheep committee chair, Kevin Comiskey.
In a statement this morning (Monday, July 3rd, 2023), he said the sheep sector in Ireland is at a “critical” point, with market prices failing to reflect the production cost increases farmers have had to endure over the past two years.
The income levels on sheep farms in Ireland in 2022 dropped to just €7/ewe, which included the SWS payment in 2022.
Gross margins on sheep farms declined by 14%, while net margins fell by 81% to just €7/ewe in 2022, which included the SWS payment.
Prices are averaging over 40c/kg behind 2022 for the year to date on hoggets and lambs, which equates to a further cut of over €9.5m in sheep farmers’ incomes for the year, according to the farm organisation.
Comiskey said: “Weak market prices this year have compounded the problem and are effectively leaving every sheep farmer in a severe loss-making situation.”
“Sheep farmers do not have the capacity to endure this level of income loss, and immediate action is required.”
“Factories and Bord Bia must do more in the marketplace to return a viable price for sheep farmers,” he said.
He called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marnie to deliver “meaningful” targeted payments of at least €30/ewe to provide economic viability on sheep farms.
The Family Farm Income on sheep farms dropped 21% in 2022, a level of reduction the “low-income, vulnerable sheep sector does not have the capacity to absorb”, he said.
Direct payments contributed 110% to overall family farm incomes in 2022, and a targeted €30/ewe payment is essential to support the sector.
Sheep kill in Ireland
According to a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, during week 25 (commencing Monday, June 19th, 2023), 70,071 head were slaughtered in DAFM-approved sheep plants.
Lambs/hoggets accounted for 8,753 head, while the spring lamb kill stood at 55,870, 5,444 ewes and rams were slaughtered and 4 light lambs were processed.
This is 19,184 head higher than 2022’s corresponding week when the kill stood at 50,887, which equates to a 38% difference.
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