Mart managers report that factory agents are keen for sheep, which is not surprising given the fall-off in throughput in recent weeks, but add that they are more cautious in their purchasing behaviour.

There is more variability in prices recorded as a result of the quality of hoggets in particular being more mixed.

The general run of prices paid for fleshed hoggets weighing upwards of 50kg is in the region of €190 to €205.

Farmer interest in good-quality ewe hoggets weighing upwards of 55kg to 60kg is pushing returns in certain sales to €220 and higher.

Mixed-quality hoggets lacking condition and weighing 47kg to 49kg are trading anywhere from €165 to €185, with finishers also more cautious in what they are willing to pay.

The spring lamb trade has steadied, but, again, there is a significant differential in prices paid for young tight-woolled lambs and aged lambs.

The general run of prices reported for fleshed lambs weighing 47kg to 50kg is in the region of €195 to €205.

Excellent-quality lots and heavier quality lambs are trading to €210 to €215, with isolated sales reaching €220 where butchers are active.

The likely slaughter performance has an even greater effect on prices for light lambs.

Fleshed lots weighing 45kg to 46kg range from €180 to €195, with top-quality lots again reaching and exceeding €200/head, while lambs weighing 43kg to 44kg range on average from €175 to €188.

The trade for cull ewes is solid, with the best-quality well-fleshed cull ewes continuing to sell from €2.20/kg to €2.50/kg and easing back to €2/kg for average-quality fleshed ewes.

Crossbred and hill types range from €1.70/kg to €1.90/kg for good-quality heavier-carcase ewes, while lighter lots range back to €1.30/kg to €1.60/kg.

Ewes lacking significant flesh cover are selling back to €1/kg and less in a small number of cases.

Ewes with lambs at foot are unchanged, ranging anywhere from €130 to €270 for single-lamb lots and from €200 to €300 for twin-lamb outfits with older ewes and to in excess of €350 for younger ewes and quality lambs.