The sheep trade has repeated the strong start to the week, with prices edging upwards by another 10c/kg to 15c/kg on average over the weekend.

The move means the opening price on offer in many factories is in the region of €6.10/kg to €6.20/kg.

It is important to highlight that there is a significant differential in prices being negotiated, with some deals still taking place in the region of €6.10/kg, while others range from €6.30/kg to €6.40/kg.

Sellers with low negotiating power and handling small numbers are receiving returns of €6/kg to €6.15/kg.

Regular sellers and those trading through producer groups have seen prices climb to €6.25/kg to €6.35/kg, with some deals at the lower price including haulage costs being covered.

Top of the market

At the top end of the market, agents or specialist finishers handling large numbers are securing 5c/kg to 10c/kg higher to tie into deals for batches numbering in the region of 50 to 80 lambs upwards.

Producers with sheep to sell should keep abreast of the trade given the rate of change over the last 10 days.

Northern Ireland trade

The trade is also strengthening in Northern Ireland.

Buyers purchasing on behalf of southern plants have stepped up their activity in sourcing lambs in marts and in direct farm deals, with Northern plants increasing prices paid to ward off this interest.

Plants are in general working off opening quotes of £4.90/kg or the equivalent of €5.43/kg at an exchange rate of 90.2p to the euro.

It is important to note that Northern prices do not include the VAT rebate that Irish farmers receive.

Regular sellers are receiving £5.00/kg to £5.10/kg (€5.54/kg to €5.65/kg) or higher, while prices reported as being paid to attract high numbers south of the border for direct slaughter are in the region of €6.00/kg to €6.20/kg.

Mart round-up

The mart is an excellent alternative outlet for farmers handling small numbers, north or south, with agents competing strongly for relatively tight supplies and clashing with butcher and wholesale buyers.

In Athenry Mart on Monday, fleshed lambs weighing 49kg to 54kg sold from €138 to €147, while three lots exceeded this price range.

A batch of 54kg lambs hit €149, while heavy lambs weighing 58kg and 59kg sold for €155 and €151 respectively.

Lambs weighing 45kg to 48kg sold in a price range of €128 to €140, with the level of finish dictating prices paid.

A few pens of lighter stores weighing 38kg to 40kg sold in the main from €108 to €116.

Kilkenny Mart auctioneer George Candler described the 100% clearance of 350 sheep on offer in Kilkenny Mart as an excellent trade.

Lambs weighing 50kg to 55kg sold from €140 to a top of €145, while lighter lots weighing 45kg to 47kg sold from the high €120s to the high €130s.

Ewe trade

The ewe trade is solid, with a slightly stronger appetite building.

The general run of prices for ewes ranges from €2.80/kg to €3.00/kg, with regular sellers securing returns of €3.10/kg to €3.15/kg and slightly higher in cases.

A high percentage of heavy ewes in marts sales have improved in price by €2 to €4 per head, with higher numbers of heavier carcase ewes now falling within a price range of €120 to €135, while select lots of big ewes weighing upwards of 100kg liveweight sold from €135 to a top call of €145.