Mart managers report that agents remain keen for sheep, but that the severity and pace of factory price cuts is leading agents to be much more cautious in their purchasing behaviour and leading to a more subdued trade.

Prices have reduced anywhere from €5 to €10 on average on the week, with some marts which up to now saw butcher or wholesale demand helping to keep a floor under the trade recording greater reductions in the week.

Good-quality fleshed lambs weighing upwards of 50kg are trading from €155 to €162 on average, with prices earlier in the week hitting a top of €165 to €170/head.

Plainer-quality lots and lambs with a lower cover of flesh are selling back to €150/head, while lambs weighing 47kg to 49kg are selling from €144 to €157/head and back to €140 for plainer-quality lots.

Prices for lambs weighing 43kg to 44kg are trading in an even wider differential, with lambs selling anywhere from €125 to €140. Mart managers report that there is ok demand for the number of store lambs appearing, but that the appetite of buyers is tempered by the rate that finished lamb prices are falling.

Lowland stores

Light lowland and good-quality crossbred stores are selling from €3/kg to €3.15/kg for average quality lots and up to €3.25/kg to €3.30/kg for quality well-presented lambs.

The ewe trade is holding firm, with factory quotes largely unchanged and keeping a good floor under the trade.

Fleshed ewes continue to sell in the region of €1.80/kg to €2/kg, with the best-quality ewes selling to €2.10/kg to €2.17/kg. Medium-weight ewes and lighter ewes are selling from €1.60/kg to €1.85/kg for heavier-quality lots, with plainer-quality lots selling from €1.50/kg to €1.70/kg.

Top-quality Scottish Blackface ewes are selling from €1.20/kg to €1.50/kg, with lighter ewes and lowland ewes lacking significant flesh cover selling back to €1/kg.

Average prices are reduced by more ewes lacking flesh cover slowly coming on stream following weaning.

A number of marts will start hosting entries of breeding ewes and hoggets over the coming fortnight.