The sheep trade is starting the week in a challenging manner, with factories pulling base quotes by 20c/kg.

This leaves base quotes ranging from €7.80/kg to €7.90/kg, with all plants reported as working off a similar opening price of €8/kg for quality assured (QA) lambs.

Groups and regular sellers are securing returns ranging from €8.10/kg to €8.15/kg for R grading lambs and, in cases, 5c/kg to 10c/kg higher, depending on the payment mechanism, for U and E grading lambs.

Reports indicate supplies remain tight, with agents anxious to get their hands on sheep but not willing to pay higher.

Variable mart reports

There is contrasting reports from mart sales held over the weekend and on Monday.

Ennis Mart in Co Clare reported a steady trade for an entry of about 600 head. Fleshed lambs are reported as averaging €3.60/kg, with top prices for heavy fleshed lambs ranging from €3.80/kg to €3.97/kg and breaching the €4/kg mark on a couple of occasions.

The top call was €216 paid for a batch of 11 super-quality lambs weighing 57.5kg.

Kilkenny Mart auctioneer George Candler painted a similar picture of a firm trade, with tight supplies helping to keep a strong floor under the trade.

A handful of top-quality batches of lambs weighing 50kg to 54kg sold from €200 to a top of €226 for 51kg lambs. This trade was driven by demand from butcher and wholesale buyers.

Factory lambs weighing 44kg to 46kg averaged in the region of €165 to €175.

In contrast, the top price paid for heavy lambs in a number of sales in recent days has been in the region of €180 to €185 for top-quality heavier lambs, with factory lambs weighing 47kg to 50kg selling from €173 to €180/head.