The hogget trade in marts has stepped up another notch in recent days, with factory agents willing to compete with greater intensity. This is creating greater competition among agents buying for different plants and also butcher and wholesale buyers who remain very fit for suitable sheep.

Average prices have strengthened anywhere to the tune of €2 to €4/head, with the majority of fleshed lowland hoggets weighing upwards of 49kg to 50kg now selling at or above the €150 mark. Significant numbers of hoggets weighing 50kg to 56kg are trading in a price range of €150 to €157, with top-quality lots rising to €160/head and isolated cases of hoggets exceeding this figure.

Lighter lots weighing 40kg to 43kg are trading anywhere from €120 to €135, with the type of hogget and its level of flesh cover dictating the price. Likewise, hoggets weighing 45kg to 47kg are trading anywhere from a starting point of €120 to €130 for plainer or poor-quality lots lacking significant flesh to €140 to €148 for quality tight-woolled types.

The trade for cull ewes remains solid, with lowland ewes weighing 80kg to 90kg trading from €110 to €125 on average, while large-framed heavy ewes weighing upwards of 100kg continue to push prices to €135 to €140 and even as high as €150 on occasion.

Numbers appearing are tightening, which is not surprising, with a high percentage of barren ewes now moved off farms.

Scotch ewes continue to average in the region of €47 to €55 for small-framed ewes, with medium-sized ewes selling to €65 and large-framed ewes selling to €70 to €75.

The number of ewes presented in lamb is also dropping off. Good lowland ewes carrying 1.7 to two lambs are trading from €170 to €195 on average, while aged and poor-quality lots are selling to as low as €100 to €130. There is a similarly wide differential for ewes presented with lambs at foot.

Good-quality twin-lamb units comprising a lamb aged two to five weeks of age and a ewe with a good mouth, size and condition are selling from €200 to €270, with young ewes selling over the €300 in select cases. Single lamb lots range from €120 to €180 on average with select lots topping €200.