The sheep trade suffered another knock back over the weekend, with factory quotes reducing by 10c/kg on average.

Base quotes for Monday range from €7.00/kg to €7.10/kg, while plants and wholesale buyers purchasing at flat prices are offering an opening all-in quote of €7.20/kg.

Some of the wholesale and butcher buyers who are offering a flat price of €7.20/kg are now paying to 22kg carcase weight and are using this as a bargaining position in negotiations.

QA bonuses

There are significant numbers of quality assured (QA) lambs trading in the region of €7.20/kg to €7.30/kg, while, at the higher end of the market, some producers trading through groups or with strong negotiating power are securing returns of €7.35/kg to €7.40/kg on Monday when conformation bonuses or allowances on transport were taken into account.

Solid mart trade

The majority of marts held on Monday and over the weekend recorded a relatively solid trade, with some recording a livelier trade for heavier fleshed lambs.

This is being helped in cases by firm demand from buyers who were specialising in heavy ewes and are now purchasing lambs to offset tight supplies of top-quality fleshed ewes.

At Kilkenny Mart's sheep sale on Monday, auctioneer George Candler reported the €170 price mark being exceeded on two occasions, with €174 paid for a batch of eight lambs weighing 53kg and €172 paid for 52kg lambs.

Other notable prices ranged from €159 to €166 for lambs weighing 49kg to 52kg.

Factory-weight lambs weighing from 40kg averaged from €140 to €150. Cull ewes remain a remarkable trade, with a new milestone set with ewes selling to a top of €215.

Vibrant cull ewe trade

Several other marts also recorded a vibrant cull ewe trade, with ewes also exceeding the €200 mark in Mountbellew Mart on Saturday.

These were extraordinary prices, with the general run of prices ranging from €145 to €180 for heavy lowland ewes weighing 95kg and upwards, while medium-weight ewes ranging from 85kg to 90kg are averaging in the region of €120 to €145.

The factory trade also remains firm, with agents confined to competing for a lower grade or lighter fleshed ewe.

Factory quotes remain in the main at €3.20/kg to €3.30/kg, with top prices rising to €3.40/kg to €3.50/kg.