This week marks a return to normal service for the majority of marts, with only a small number resuming sales activity last week.

Reports from mart managers are positive, with prices increasing anywhere from €4 to €10 on pre-Christmas levels and providing food for thought for producers in marketing lambs.

Athenry Mart’s entry was the largest of the day, with in the region of 80 lots on offer. A lively trade has been attracting lambs from a wider hinterland in recent weeks and Monday’s sale was no different.

A significant percentage of top-quality lambs weighing upwards of 52kg to 53kg exceeded the €160/head mark, selling from €160 to €168 in the main.

A handful of lots exceeded this range, including the top price of €177 for lambs weighing 65kg.

Lighter lots weighing from 49kg to 51kg sold in a wider price range from €151 to in excess of €160/head, with flesh cover and quality dictating prices paid.

Likewise, lighter lots weighing 47kg to 48kg sold in the main from €148 to €156, while lambs weighing 45kg to 46kg sold from €134 to €146/head.

Kilkenny Mart

Kilkenny Mart auctioneer George Candler reported that there was some top-quality sheep on offer in the entry of 650 head, commenting that it is “good to see the sheep farmer at last getting a good return for his product”.

There was a similar top call of €177 for lambs weighing 65kg, while other standout prices for lambs weighing 54kg to 58kg ranged from €159 to €169. Lighter lots weighing 50kg to 52kg ranged from the mid-€150s to €160-plus.

Midweight lambs weighing 44kg to 46kg sold in the main from €142 to €148, while there was also a firm trade for store lambs, which sold from €2.80/kg to €2.95/kg.

Ennis Mart

Ennis Mart reported prices increasing by €6 to €10 on pre-Christmas levels for an entry of about of 300 head.

Top-quality lambs weighing upwards of 52kg are reported as selling from €160 to €169/head, with a top call of €179 for a batch of seven lambs weighing 59kg.

Lighter lots weighing 48kg to 49kg sold from €150 to €158, depending on quality, while lambs weighing 46kg to 47kg sold from €138 to €149, depending on quality.

Factory trade

Factory base quotes are starting the week unchanged, ranging from a base of €6.45/kg to €6.60/kg.

When Bord Bia quality assurance (QA) payments are added in, quotes range from €6.65/kg to €6.70/kg.

Regular sellers and groups are securing returns ranging from €6.75/kg to €6.80/kg for R grading lambs and upwards of €6.90/kg where conformation bonuses are included.

Numbers coming on stream are steady, with agents keen to handle higher numbers and maximise throughput.

Carcase weight limits continue to range from 22.5kg to 23kg and sellers should quantify payment terms and explore options before moving sheep. This includes assessing the type of lambs on hand and exploring if the direct factory route or mart trade is the best option.