Recent reductions in factory lamb base quotes have filtered through to the mart trade, with prices easing by €2 to €5 per head on average.

Factory agents remain keen for sheep, but are more coy in their purchasing behaviour.

The success of their attempts to reduce prices has been variable.

Marts with a strong presence of butcher buyers have withstood the pressure better, with top prices for heavier top-quality lambs weighing from 48kg to 50kg upwards ranging from €170 to €175 and hitting €180 on occasion.

This is in contrast to reports in other marts, where top prices have been limited to €170 per head.

There is a tighter price range reported for lambs weighing 45kg to 47kg, with prices ranging from €160 to €170 per head with quality having a marked influence on returns achieved.

The potential kill-out of lambs is having an even greater effect for lighter lots, with 43kg to 44kg lambs selling anywhere from €150 for plainer-quality or lambs lacking flesh to the mid- to high-€160s for young, fleshed lambs that will hit maximum weights.

Hogget numbers are variable, with entries low in areas where early lambing is common, but still relatively firm in later-lambing regions.

Heavy hoggets weighing upwards of 52kg to 55kg are trading from €165 to €173 on average, with the trade dominated by factory buyers.

Lighter lots and mixed-quality tailend lots are selling from €150 to €160.

The cull ewe trade is solid, with demand a touch stronger. Heavy, fleshed ewes are trading in the main from €150 to €180, with prices rising to €200 per head and higher for excellent-quality ewes.

Medium-weight ewes (80kg) are trading from €135 to €155 on average, with very few fleshed lowland ewes below €100 per head. Scotch and poorer-quality ewes lacking flesh remain at €1/kg to €1.30/kg.

Ewes with twin lambs at foot are selling in the main from €210 to €270, with strong lamb units hitting €300. Single-lamb lots range from €100 to €150 for aged hill ewes to upwards of €200 for young lowland ewes.