Sheep marts: Grass growth drives demand for ewes with lambs at foot

Strong grass growth rates have been witnessed on many farms throughout Ireland over recent days and it has helped to bolster the prices achieved by ewes with lambs at foot.

Farmers were particularly keen to purchase young ewes with ‘hardy’ spring lambs and were willing to pay prices in excess of €250/unit to secure these animals. Many see these purchases as less of a risk than buying in-lamb ewes earlier in the season.

Over recent days, the prices paid for ewes with single lambs at foot peaked at €295, while those with twins traded to a top call of €320.

However, the same positivity does not extend to the hogget trade. Last week, factory buyers moved to tighten their grip on the market and pulled quotes by 20-30c/kg.

This move has filtered its way down to the mart trade and similar price decreases have been witnessed at the ringside where – in some venues – low butcher activity is giving factory agents a clear run at the market.

Raphoe Mart

Despite Raphoe Mart’s weekly sheep sale falling on bank holiday Monday, an excellent show of sheep was offered and demand was strong from factory agents and farmers.

Heavy spring lambs (50-55kg) sold for €150-158, lots falling into the 45-50kg category traded at €140-150 and the lighter lots (35-40kg) realised prices of €120-130.

A number of finished and store hoggets were also on offer; butcher types (50-60kg) traded at €140-161, factory types (45-50kg) made €125-140 and store hoggets (40-45kg) sold for €100-125.

Like previous weeks, fat ewes continued to meet a strong trade and prices of €80-134 were realised on the day. Meanwhile, ewes with singles sold from €130 to €295, while ewes with twins made €180-320.

Tullow Mart

Another large sale was witnessed in Tullow Mart, Co. Carlow, on Tuesday and lamb returns were reported to have climbed by €1-2/head.

Light spring lambs (<40kg) sold for €129-134 – depending on quality – while those in the 40-43kg bracket traded at €134-142/head.

Fleshed hoggets (>50kg) sold at €140-152, the store types (>41kg) sold in the region of €105/head and up and hoggets weighting 45-50kg sold for €130-144.

There was no great change in the cast ewe trade; feeding ewes sold for €15-30 over, while the heavier, fleshed lots sold to a top call of €145 on the back of strong demand.

Ewes with lambs at foot were reported to have met a blazing trade; eight ewes with single lambs sold for €160 and young ewes with twin lambs sold to a top price of €272.

Mountbellew Mart

Spring lambs and hoggets met an improved trade in Mountbellew Mart’s weekly sheep sale on Saturday last. Well-fleshed lambs sold for over €3.00/kg, while the store lots traded from €2.54/kg and up.

Sample spring lamb prices:
  • 45.5kg: €140 or €3.08/kg;
  • 44.5kg: €135 or €3.03/kg;
  • 40kg: €120 or €3.00/kg;
  • 35.5kg: €90 or €2.54/kg;
  • 37.5kg: €105 or €2.80/kg.

Meanwhile, quality ewe hoggets continued to remain in demand in the Galway-based venue and prices of €2.59-2.91/kg were achieved on the day.

In addition, cast ewe prices ranged from €75 up to €120, while the large number of ewes with lambs at foot met a brisk trade.

Sample ewe and lamb prices:
  • Third-crop ewes with single lambs: €165;
  • Third-crop ewes with strong twin lambs: €236;
  • Second-crop ewes with single lambs: €159;
  • First-crop ewes with strong single lambs: €239;
  • First-crop ewes with twin lambs: €261.

Baltinglass Mart

A complete clearance was witnessed at Baltinglass Mart’s weekly sheep sale on Saturday last. As grass growth improved in the region, a great demand was witnessed for ewes with lambs at foot; full-mounted ewes with single lambs made up to €200.

The hogget trade also improved by €1-2/head in the Wicklow-based venue and a top price of €2.90/kg was achieved on the day.

Sample hogget prices:
  • 65kg: €140 or €2.15/kg;
  • 57kg: €140 or €2.45/kg;
  • 44kg: €126 or €2.87/kg;
  • 44kg: €106 or €2.41/kg;
  • 38kg: €104 or €2.74/kg;
  • 45kg: €104 or €2.31/kg.

Carnew Mart

Some 1,680 sheep were on offer at last Thursday’s sheep sale in Carnew Mart, Co. Wicklow. A very good selling trade was reported for all classes and prices similar to the previous week’s sale were achieved.

Hoggets weighing >50kg traded for €137-152, those falling into the 45-49kg bracket sold for €123-147 and store lots (40-44kg) made €103-121.

A number of spring lambs were also on offer and prices of €135-145 were realised for lambs weighing 40-45kg and the hammer fell on lighter lots (35-39kg) at €115-132.

Like previous weeks, cast ewes continued to remain in demand in the Wicklow-based venue; heavy cull ewes sold for €122-147 and the lighter lots made €65-115. Strong prices were also witnessed for ewes with lambs at foot; ewes with twin lambs sold for €180-242 and those accompanied by single lambs made €110-185.