Factory agents have been more coy in their purchasing behaviour and have not been competing with the same intensity in recent days.

Reports from mart managers show prices easing on average by €5 to €8/head and by over €10/head for certain types.

The top prices paid for fleshed heavy hoggets weighing 53kg to 55kg upwards are in the region of €215 to €220/head in recent days, with isolated lots of ewe hoggets attracting farmer-buyer attention exceeding this range.

Lots weighing 48kg to 50kg are trading anywhere from €190 to €210, with agents more discerning in prices paid for mixed-quality hoggets.

It is a similar situation in the lamb trade, with heavier fleshed lambs better resisting the price pressure, while lighter lots have eased by €5 to €10/head depending on flesh cover.

Spring lamb quotes have not reduced significantly in all plants, but agents are less willing to pay above equivalent factory prices.

Fleshed lambs weighing 45kg to 48kg upwards are still capable of topping the €200 mark, particularly where they are attracting butcher or wholesale buyer attention.

In contrast, lighter lots weighing 40kg to 42kg are trading anywhere from €180 to €195-plus, with a greater differential apparent between similar-weight lambs of varying flesh cover.

The ewe trade is being supported by upward price movement in some factories.

Lighter fleshed ewes are trading from €1.90/kg to €2.20/kg in the main, with a selection of excellent-quality ewes capable of delivering high-quality carcases selling to €2.35/kg to €2.45/kg and higher in cases.

Medium-quality ewes are selling back to €1.50/kg to €1.70/kg with ewes lacking significant flesh back to €1/kg to €1.30/kg.

The trade for ewes at lambs at foot is hugely variable. At the top end of the trade, first-crop ewes and good twin lambs are selling from €300 to €350, with aged ewes and twin lambs from €250 to €300 and back to €200 where quality is lacking.

Single lamb lots range in the main from €100 upwards for hill units to €150 to €180 for aged ewes and up to €250 to €280 for first-crop outfits.