Sheep mart sales have started the new year in a more positive manner compared with where they concluded in 2023.

Lamb prices have firmed by €2 to €4/head with factory agents buoyed by a rising trade and butcher or wholesale buyers keen to replenish stocks.

Demand is also being helped by fewer sales taking place, with many marts not reopening until next week.

Mart managers also report that where sales have taken place, entries have been lower, with inclement weather discouraging farmers from sorting sheep over the new year period.

Well-fleshed lambs weighing upwards of 50kg are trading in the main from €100 to €105 over the weight, with top prices rising to €107 to €110 over the weight for select batches of excellent-quality lambs.

This is in contrast to plainer-quality types or lambs lacking flesh, with prices falling back to €92 to €94 over the weight.

Lambs weighing 46kg to 48kg are trading on average from €92 to €100 over the weight, with lambs lacking considerable flesh cover back to the mid-€80s.

Store trade

Demand for store lambs is firm, despite the inclement weather.

A price range of €2.60/kg to €2.85/kg is buying a high percentage of better-quality stores, with select lots of short-keep lambs with a good cover of flesh exceeding this range.

Poor-quality lambs with poor weight for age are trading from €2.20/kg to €2.50/kg, with some very light horned lambs back to €2/kg.

The ewe trade appears brighter for heavy animals, with ewes weighing upwards of 90kg selling from €150 to €170 and higher on occasion.

Ewes weighing 80kg to 85kg are trading anywhere from €115 to €145 depending on quality, while lighter ewes are trading from €1/kg for poorly covered ewes to €1.20/kg to €1.30/kg.

Scottish Blackface ewes are selling back to 80c/kg to €1/kg for lesser-quality lots.

A few sales of in-lamb ewes in Tuam and Tullow sold from €170 to €200 for top-quality lots.

Tullow Mart is holding a dispersal sale of 500 top-quality ewes lambing from 8 March and carrying 1.85 lambs on Saturday 13 January.