Mart managers continue to report a vibrant sheep trade, with reports of cull ewe prices strengthening and lamb prices in a growing number of cases exceeding factory quotes.

As such, it is not surprising that a significant number of managers have reported 100% clearance rates in sales held over the last week.

Lamb throughput is now dominating entries, with only small numbers of hoggets appearing.

Prices for lambs weighing 47kg to 50kg are reported on average from €165 to €173/head, with heavier and excellent-quality lambs selling to €175 and in isolated cases as high as €178 to €180/head.

Well-fleshed lambs weighing 44kg to 46kg are also selling in a price range from €165 to €170 on average, with kill-out potential having the biggest effect. Similarly, fleshed and well-conformed lambs weighing 40kg to 42kg are selling anywhere from €150 upwards for lambs with a lower kill-out potential to €160/head and slightly higher.

Hogget entries are small and quality is very variable. Fleshed hoggets weighing from 50kg to 55kg upwards are trading on average from €155 to €165, with the best-quality lots hitting €170/head. There are also buyers present for ewe hoggets, with more early lamb producers selling cull ewes active to keep numbers correct for the Sheep Welfare Scheme.

Good-quality lots are attracting a €3 to €5 premium to take them out of reach of factory buyers, while at the top end of the market, prices of €180 to €190 have been reported for excellent-quality sheep.

The number of cull ewes entered in some sales was marginally up, but so too is demand, leading to a robust trading environment. Prices for large-framed heavy carcase ewes with good slaughter performance potential and weighing upwards of 90kg to 100kg are trading in a range of €180 to €215, but isolated prices for small numbers of ewes have hit €230 to €240.

Ewes weighing 80kg to 85kg are selling from €135 to €170, depending on quality, while, in sales with lowland ewes, there is very little under the €100 mark.