Reports from sheep sales held in recent days have been highly variable, with numbers on offer, buyer activity and the quality of sheep on offer all having an influence on price.

Some sales are reporting prices back by as much as €6 to €8 on the previous week, while others are reporting a steadier trade, with prices back in cases by €2 to €3 per head.

Mart managers also note that quality has become more variable, leading to a greater price differential between sheep of a similar weight.

Fleshed lambs weighing 50kg upwards are selling anywhere from €136 to €144, with isolated lots of excellent-quality heavier hoggets attracting butcher competition selling to a top of €147 to €150.

Lighter slaughter-fit lots weighing 47kg to 49kg range on average from €130 to €138, but prices from as low as €120 to €122 have been reported for sheep lacking significant flesh and essentially sold as store lambs.

It is a similar story for store lambs, with lots weighing 38kg to 40kg selling from the mid-€90s for sheep requiring significant feeding to €108 to €114 for top-quality lots.

The trade for in-lamb ewes and ewes with lambs at foot is solid for the small numbers appearing. Average-quality full-mouth ewes carrying a lamb and a half to two lambs but not lambing for a couple of months are selling from €150 to €170, but numbers are scarce.

The best demand is for ewes within a few weeks of lambing and sold in dispersal sales or special entries. Here, top-quality ewes are selling from €180 to €220, with select lots of excellent-quality hoggets selling to €230 to €240.

Ewes with lambs at foot are scarce in number, with good-quality ewes and twin-lamb lots a few weeks old selling from €240 to €280, with odd lots hitting €300 for younger ewes, while single lamb lots range anywhere from €170 to €220, again depending on quality and age of the ewe and lamb.

Cull ewes are steady, with fleshed large-farmed lowland ewes selling from €110 to €130, cross-bred and medium-sized ewes from €90 to €115 and Scotch ewes from €45 to €60.