The sheep trade continues on an upward trajectory.

Factory agents are trying to keep a lid on price with quotes unchanged, but are, in cases, paying more to close deals involving large numbers.

Demand is being boosted by factories filling orders for the Christmas trade. The firm appetite is also evident in mart sales, where agents are facing competition from butcher and wholesale buyers.

Base quotes range in the main from €6.35/kg to €6.50/kg or €6.50/kg to €6.60/kg when quality assurance (QA) payments are factored in.

Sellers trading on an individual basis and possessing lower negotiating power are moving small numbers in the region of €6.55/kg to €6.65/kg.

Regular sellers and those trading through groups are securing returns ranging from €6.70/kg to €6.80/kg, while there are reports emerging of €6.90/kg paid for large batches of lambs.

Mart trade

Producers having difficulty negotiating on price should weigh up their options and gauge if the live trade is a better outlet. There is significant variation between sales, depending on lamb quality and the purchasing power of buyers.

Heavy well-fleshed lambs are trading at the top end of the market from €158 to €165/head in sales with a vibrant butcher or wholesale trade.

The same lambs are selling for €5 to €8 lower in certain sales with lower levels of competition and where factory agents dominate, with the typical price for fleshed lambs ranging from €97 to €104 with the weight.

Cull ewe trade

Significant variation is also evident in the ewe trade.

Factory prices range in the main from €2.80/kg to €3/kg for better-quality ewes, with prices at the higher end of the market rising to €3.20/kg to €3.30/kg.

Demand for poorly fleshed or light-carcase ewes is sluggish, with quotes falling back to €2.50/kg to €2.60/kg in many plants for ewes delivering a carcase less than 35kg.