Sheep breeding sales continue in a positive tone and, in truth, are exceeding expectations. Many producers had feared falling demand, with lower levels of optimism reported among farmers. However, early season sales continue to defy expectations.

The Mayo Mule and Greyface premier sale of ewe hoggets recorded an average price of €216/head last Friday, up €4/head on 2022 levels, while its average ewe lamb price on Saturday was €140/head, €5 easier on the year previous.

A feature which is likely to be helping sales is the lower numbers of hoggets on offer, with the Tullow, Borris and Mayo sales all recording 10% to 15% fewer entries. This is a feature replicated in general mart sales.

The second Tullow Sheep Breeders Association sale, held on Wednesday, also met lively demand.

Average prices were lower than the group’s premier sale, as expected, but a selection of top-quality hoggets still sold upwards of €250, with one batch exceeding the €300 mark at €305/head.

Quality hoggets sold from €200 to €240, while lighter lots sold from €170 to €190/head.

The trade in general mart sales is seeing top-quality hoggets selling from €190 to €230/head, with small numbers rising to €250. Lighter or plainer-quality lots are selling from €170 to €190 in the main, with low numbers of plainer-quality hoggets presented to date.

The trade is also being helped by keen demand in mart sales for cull ewes. Prices are ranging from €170 to €200 for large-framed, heavy, cull ewes weighing upwards of 85kg to 90kg, while lighter top-quality lots weighing 80kg to 85kg are trading from €130 to €160, depending on quality.

The wide variation between factory and live cull ewe prices is resulting in more farmers who would normally deal directly with factories batching and presenting heavier ewes in mart sales.