Reports from sheep mart sales held this week have been variable in performance, with many sales recording a better trade than first anticipated taking in to account the reduction in factory quotes.

Managers comment that while agents are keen to purchase lambs at a lower price, a firm appetite for sheep is adding plenty of life to the trade.

Prices paid are being influenced by aspects such as a strong presence of butcher or wholesale buyers or those purchasing lambs for exporting live.

This has seen some marts record top prices of €167 to €175 for heavier lambs weighing in excess of 50kg, while other marts have recorded a range of €160 to €168 for such lambs.

Likewise, prices paid for fleshed lambs weighing from 47kg to 49kg range in the main from €153 to €160, but up to €165 and higher has been paid for excellent-quality lots in some sales.

Lambs weighing 45kg to 46kg and capable of killing out at maximum carcase weights are also selling in a similar price range of €152 to €160.

Lighter lots weighing 42kg to 44kg are even more price sensitive to quality. Prices are generally in the range of €140 to €150 and the best-quality types capable of achieving favourable slaughter performance are rising in cases to the mid-€150s.

Mart managers strongly advise that farmers should batch fleshed ram lambs suitable for live export together, with interest in many sales over the last week to 10 days.

Demand for ewe lambs with breeding potential also appears to be starting strongly and, as such, these should also be marketed together.

Store lamb numbers are increasing and meeting a solid demand. Lambs weighing 36kg to 38kg are trading anywhere from €110 to €130, with the majority of well-presented lowland lambs selling from €3/kg to €3.30/kg, while crossbred lambs are selling in cases back to €2.70/kg to €2.80/kg.

Cull ewes continue to meet brisk demand. Heavy ewes weighing upwards of 95kg to 100kg are trading from €180 to €215 on average, with select lots hitting €220 to €230.

Ewes weighing around the 85kg mark are selling from €140 to €170 on average. Meanwhile, Scotch ewes range from €1.20/kg to €1.75/kg, depending on weight and flesh cover.