There has been a much livelier tone to the sheep trade in the last week, with factory agents displaying a much greater appetite for hoggets.

Numbers of good-quality fleshed hoggets are scarce and where butcher or wholesale activity is strong, many lots are exceeding comparable factory prices.

At the top end of the market and in sales with firm butcher competition, prices for fleshed lowland hoggets weighing from 50kg to 55kg range from €147 to €153, with isolated lots exceeding this range.

Lesser-quality and crossbred hoggets are selling back to €140 to €145/head in cases, while fleshed hoggets weighing 48kg to 49kg are trading anywhere from €140 to in excess of €150 depending on the level of feed and potential kill-out.

The trade for lighter lots is being influenced strongly by flesh cover, with reports indicating factory agents dropping down in the weights in an attempt to boost numbers purchased.

Hoggets weighing 44kg to 46kg are trading from €128 to €140, with prices again influenced strongly by kill-out potential and also on how evenly hoggets are batched.

The trade for light hoggets remains challenging, with small-framed and light hoggets weighing from 20kg to 30kg averaging around €1.80/kg to €1.90/kg, while better-quality lots in this category sold to €2.20/kg to €2.30/kg.

Demand for heavier stores was firmer this week in many hill areas, with average prices for hoggets weighing 30kg to 40kg at €2.10/kg to €2.30/kg.

The trade for cull ewes is variable, with the overall tone being a sharper trade, helped by tight lamb supplies.

Heavy ewes weighing from 90kg upwards are trading in the main from €130 to €155, with isolated lots selling to as high as €170 to €180.

Lighter ewes weighing 80kg to 85kg are trading from €100 to €125, with ewe quality and kill-out central in dictating prices.

Ewes lacking flesh continue to sell from 80c/kg to €1/kg for Scottish Blackface-type ewes, with crossbred and poorer-quality lowland ewes selling from €1/kg to €1.30/kg on average.