Live sheep sales resume in Eire
By Philip ClarkeEurope editor
EIRE will hold its first live sheep auctions for over four months on Monday (July 9), when marts re-open for specialist breeding sales.
The move marks another significant step towards market normality in the Republic, following just one case of foot-and-mouth disease in Co Louth in late February.
Live cattle trading resumed in mid-June, but sheep sales have been restricted to those direct from farm to abattoir. It has, however, been possible to use marts as collection points since April.
"This is really good news," said Ray Dunne, policy officer for the Irish Cattle Traders and Stockowners Association. "Early lamb producers need to sort out their breeding stock now. This sort of trade could not operate at farm-to-farm level."
The resumption of breeding sales means only finished lamb auctions remain banned.
"These are expected to get the all-clear soon, once we have been granted F&M-free status by the International Office of Epizootics in Paris," said Mr Dunne. An application has already been lodged by the Irish government.
Farm minister Joe Walsh has also dispensed with the permitting system for moving sheep on animal welfare grounds and for sales direct to abattoirs.
And, for the first time, multiple pick-ups of sheep intended for slaughter have been possible, while marts have been given permission to assemble sheep for slaughter at up to two factories on a single day.
However, throughputs have continued to suffer this week because producers have struggled to obtain ear tags. Abattoirs have been obliged to reject untagged sheep since June 21.
As a result, deadweight prices have remained firm at about Ir£1.72/lb (£2.88/kg) for finished lamb, well in excess of UK values of £2.10/kg. Last month, Irish lamb was worth Ir£1.65/lb (£2.77/kg).
The Irish Farmers Association is urging its members to resist any downward price pressure from the meat plants.
"Lamb numbers are not available to meet demand and factories are having to pay much more than they quote to farmers who sell hard," said sheep chairman Frank Corcoran.
• Auction marts were re-opened in Northern Ireland this week to operate as collection centres for over-30-month cattle. *