There is much more life in the sheep trade this week, with increased competition between factory agents and butcher or wholesale buyers lifting prices by anywhere from €2 to €5/head.

The increase has not occurred across all marts and, as such, is opening up a greater differential between plants with a vibrant trade for quality, fleshed lambs and others where store lambs dominate.

At the higher end of the market, top-quality fleshed lambs weighing upwards of 50kg are selling from €105 to €110 with the weight.

This compares with sales with a slower finished lamb trade where lambs weighing upwards of 50kg are trading in the main from €98 to €102 with the weight. Lots lacking flesh cover are selling back to €90 to €94 with the weight.

Similar trend

The trend is similar as you progress down in weight. Lambs weighing from 47kg to 49kg are selling in a wide differential from €90 to €97 with the weight, while lighter lots weighing from 44kg to 46kg are trading anywhere from €80 to €92 with the weight.

Flesh cover and potential kill-out are much more influential on prices paid for lighter lambs.

The recent firming in deadweight prices is fuelling more interest from feeders with short-keep stores faring best.

Prices for quality lowland lambs range in the main from €2.70/kg to €2.90/kg, with the best-quality lots with a good cover of flesh hitting €3/kg in cases.

Lesser-quality lots and lambs lacking flesh are trading from €2.50/kg to €2.70/kg. Lighter lambs remain a challenging trade, but numbers are reported as being a bit tighter in some areas, which is helping demand. Prices range on average from €2/kg to €2.30/kg.

Cull ewe trade

There is much more life in the cull ewe trade, but, again, this varies between marts.

Some marts report heavy ewes up by as much as €15/head in the last two weeks.

Heavy fleshed ewes weighing upwards of 90kg are trading from €140 to €160, with 80kg to 85kg ewes selling from €115 to €140 depending on flesh cover.

Numbers of Scottish Blackface ewes are tighter, with prices ranging from 70c/kg to €1.15/kg in the main.