The sheep trade continues to reach new heights, with records being set each week.

Raphoe Mart in Donegal and Kilkenny Mart had sales to remember on Monday, with spring lambs exceeding €200 per head.

The €200 mark was exceeded on a number of occasions in Raphoe with a top price of €282 recorded for spring lambs weighing 50kg.

There were two more exceptional prices with two lots of 48kg lambs selling for €278 and €240.

Other lambs weighing 40kg to 50 kg sold from €180 to €220 while lambs weighing 37kg to 39kg sold from €150 to €180 on average. A full report is available here.

A top call of €211 was recorded for super-quality 43kg lambs in Kilkenny, with a second batch of 47kg lambs also exceeding €200 and selling to €209. Three other lots of lambs weighing 40kg to 42kg sold for €185, €193 and €198.

Flying trade

A number of other marts also witnessed a flying trade and recorded lamb prices ranging from €170 to €185 for lots weighing 38kg to 45kg.

This was driven in the main by strong purchasing activity by butchers and wholesalers looking to get last-minute supplies on hand for the Easter trade.

Firm factory appetite

Factory demand has also been solid in recent days for spring lambs.

The general run of prices has ranged from €7.70/kg to €7.90/kg, but regular producers with excellent-quality lambs on hand have achieved top prices of €8/kg to €8.10/kg.

Numbers in the market are relatively low and this, combined with tight hogget supplies, is helping to put a strong floor under the trade.

Factory quotes

Factory quotes for hoggets have stabilised and in cases have come under some pressure.

Most plants are trying to curtail the higher prices on offer and bring prices back in line with base quotes.

A high percentage of sheep traded by regular suppliers range from €7.25/kg to €7.35/kg, with many deals involving significant numbers also providing allowances on transport costs.

There are still deals being negotiated 5c/kg to 10c/kg higher, but these are typically confined to suppliers handling very large numbers.

Mart the best outlet for cull ewes

Heavy and fleshed cull ewes remain a lightning trade in mart sales, with this avenue currently returning the highest prices.

Ewes weighing 95kg upwards are trading from €130 to €170 on average, with select lots of exceptional ewes rising to as high as €180 or higher.

Factory quotes range from €3.00/kg to €3.20/kg in the main, but as high as €3.40/kg is being paid to agents handling ewes in a bid to increase their purchasing power in mart sales.

The top prices for heavy ewes are being driven by producers purchasing these ewes for a niche market, with some buyers reported as exporting ewes live and some in carcase form.