Kilkenny Mart auctioneer George Candler commented that sheep producers presenting finished lambs in Monday’s sale finally had a reason for optimism, with lamb prices increasing by €8 to €10/head on the previous week.

The sharp jump in prices was underpinned by greater demand, with the 550 head on offer failing to satisfy the keener appetite from factory agents and butcher or wholesale buyers.

The top-priced lambs were a batch of five 62kg lambs which sold for €164/head. The €160 mark was also hit for 17 excellent-quality lambs weighing 57kg, while the general run of prices for lambs weighing 50kg to 55kg was reported as ranging from €148 to €154/head.

Lighter lambs weighing 43kg to 45kg sold from €120 to €130/head, while store lambs also met a firmer trade, with lowland lambs weighing from 32kg to 37kg selling on average from €96 to €105 or from €2.65/kg to €3.00/kg.

Fermoy Mart

Manager of Cork Mart's Fermoy sales centre Sean Leahy also reported that numbers of well-fleshed lambs are tightening each week, leading to more bite in the trade.

He said that the quality of lambs on offer in Monday’s sale was second to none, with all heavy lambs possessing a good cover of flesh and made up primarily of top-quality Charollais- and Texel-sired lambs.

Good-quality wether and ewe lambs weighing from 50kg to 55kg sold in the main from €144 to €152/head.

A premium exists between wether and ram lambs and this was evident in two pens of top-quality ram lambs weighing 58kg to 59kg and which sold for €144/head.

These lambs, according to Sean, would likely have well topped the €150 mark at that weight if they were wethers.

Athenry Mart

Throughput in Athenry Mart remains strong, with over 70 pens of lambs or in the region of 100 lots on offer.

The trade also had a sharper tone, with top-quality lambs securing a premium over equivalent factory prices in recent weeks. This is helping to underpin the high level of throughput.

Top-quality wether and ewe lambs weighing upwards of 50kg sold from €144 to €152 in the main, with a selection of heavy lambs weighing from 57kg to 60kg rising to €155 and hitting €160 and higher on a few occasions.

Lighter lots weighing 47kg to 49kg sold from €135 to €144, with flesh cover and kill-out potential having a big say on prices paid.

Quotes slow to increase

Factories are slow to increase base quotes following Kildare Chilling’s 20c/kg increase last week. Most other plants have lifted quotes by 10c/kg to a base of €6.10/kg and are digging in in negotiations and trying to curtail further upward movement.

Top prices reported are in the region of €6.40/kg to €6.50/kg, with some groups receiving higher for U grading lambs when all bonuses have been factored into the price.

There is a significant differential in prices paid to sellers handling lower numbers and, as such, possessing less selling power.

Prices reported range from €6.20/kg to €6.30/kg, with sellers offering a significant number of top-quality lambs pushing for returns of upwards of €6.35/kg to €6.40/kg or, in many cases, willing to weigh up the option of selling live in the mart.