Competition has stepped up a notch this week on the back of tighter numbers on offer and a significant increase in factory prices.

Recent factory price cuts had not been felt to the same degree in marts, with factory agents keen to use this supply source to establish a supply base in recent weeks.

Marts which saw prices fall by €3 to €6 per head are now seeing this price reduction quickly reversed.

Butcher and wholesale buyers are keen to enhance supplies ahead of the Christmas trade and are driving demand for continental-bred lambs.

Quality lambs weighing in general from 50kg to 54kg are selling on average from €160 to €167, with heavier lambs and excellent-quality lots selling to €170 and rising to as high as €175 on occasion.

Plainer-quality, crossbred and ram lambs weighing 50kg to 52kg are selling from €155 to €162 on average.

This price trend is evident as you drop down in weight categories. Lambs weighing from 47kg to 49kg are selling from €150 to €160/head on average, with select lots exceeding €160/head.

Lighter lambs in the region of 44kg to 46kg and possessing a good cover of flesh are trading from €140 to €150, with a vibrant store lamb trade also adding competition for these lambs.

Store lambs weighing 33kg to 38kg are easily exceeding a price of €3/kg for good-quality, well-presented lambs, with top prices rising to €3.30/kg and higher.

Meanwhile, hill lambs are trading in a price range of €2.50/kg to €2.80/kg for top-quality lots and back to €2.20/kg to €2.50/kg for lighter, small-framed lambs that are a more challenging prospect to bring to carcase weights in excess of 17kg.

The ewe trade is also experiencing more vibrancy, with factory agents showing greater interest in ewes.

Prices are slow to lift, but quality ewes are also in short supply.

Heavy ewes weighing 85kg to 95kg are trading from €135 to €170, with small numbers of choice lots higher.

Medium-weight fleshed ewes weighing around the 85kg mark are selling anywhere from €105 to €135, while Scottish Blackface ewes continue to trade from the €1/kg mark for aged lots lacking flesh to €1.20/kg to €1.40/kg for heavier fleshed ewes.