Although sheep breeding in Hungary is grounded in strong traditions, its activities only comprise 1% of the total production value generated from agriculture, and 2% of that for animal-based products. The most significant portion of incomes earned in the Hungarian sheep sector has, for years now, stemmed from the sale of live animals. The secto...r is decidedly export-oriented, as the domestic demand for its main product, i.e. lamb meat, and is minimal, equaling some 20-30dkg per person per year. Part of the sold animals is sold to market as dairy sheep, while the greater
part is sold in the category of lamb carcasses. For this reason, the average weight of slaughter sheep has lied between 19-22 kg for years now. The target markets for live lamb sales are predominately Italy and Greece. In Greece, movement on this market has shown an upward tendency in recent years; noteworthy are also sales to Austria, Holland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Poland. In 2003, we exported sheep meat in the form of carcasses to Italy, as well as to Germany, and of these exports, 94% went to Italy, while the remaining 6% went to Germany.
Among sheep products, only the trade balance for live animal sales is positive. But even for such producers, only those who are specialized in intensive breeding and those sheep farms “targeting” meat production can obtain earnings. Specialized literature on the sector argues that the quality of Hungarian lamb has diminished dramatically and is beginning to lose its market position. If Hungarian lamb does not meet market expectations, then it will only be bought from producers at lower prices.
My research focuses on those factors which influence price. I separately discuss the question of quality, as one of the most important decisive factors on price. Within this discussion, I describe the market expectations which actually have an effect on the acceptance of live animals for sale on commission. In practice, after the problems of quality, the next most important question is that of when sale is made. In the course of my research, I studied the development of averages for sales on commission of live lambs using statistical methods. The most important problem of this sector is the hierarchical system used in sales: this is the topic hich neither the producer, nor the buyer, wish to discuss, not even with each other. On the basis of the information at my disposal, I outlined the levels of traders and individual levels used to arrive at commission prices. Finally, I examined the components of the production value of live lamb sales. The results I obtained quantified the key role of the prices and the yield, as well as the factors influencing income.
Lamb fattening in the past 8 years was generally a loss-making business and it was worth selling only in two weight categories – at 24-27 kg and at 27-30 kg –, because in this categories a modest profit could be achieved in most of the years. Selling lambs at 20-24 kg-weight provides a proper income for the sheep farmers only if the milking... period is prolonged. If the lambs are weaned at a weight of 16-20 kg, then they are not worth selling them in this weight category. The profit of fattening ram lambs is higher and safer than that of ewe lambs. In Hungary, the profitability of lamb fattening is insecure due to the large variability in purchase prices and the instability of the market. When studying the profitability of the two genders combined, it can be stated that the summer fattening period was the most profitable, while if only the rams are considered then the profitability of the autumn and spring periods was the highest, which is due to Easter and Christmas lambs. Based on our results, we came to the conclusion that ewe lambs and rams should be sold at a lower and higher weight category, respectively.