The trade rode the wave of stronger factory demand for the first half of last week, with reports that up to €5.20/kg was paid in places.
However, by Thursday factory bosses felt confident enough in the numbers coming on stream to turn back the price to €5.00-5.05/kg.
The factories were playing down those bigger numbers in the overall picture and instead pointed out that ferry traffic to Britain and France was disrupted last week by bad weather.
All of these elements do feed into the overall mix of where the trade is at this week, however, with two major plants choosing yesterday morning not to touch their quote for lamb - market leader Kildare Chilling (€4.90+10c/kg QA) and Kepak Athleague (€4.80+5c/kg QA).
The two ICMs and Dawn Ballyhaunis fell back 5c/kg to €4.75+10c/kg QA. Moyvalley did not quote yesterday.
On the cull ewe side Dawn pushed up their quote by 10c/kg to €2.70/kg, while Kildare, Kepak and the two ICMs stayed put on €2.60/kg, with Kildare offering 10c/kg QA.
Factory prices on the ground for culls are reported to be running at €2.80-2.90/kg.
Despite uncertainty around how many sheep are in the system and factory complaints of too many heavy fat lambs coming on stream, I get the feeling that factories remain keen to source supplies.
You would be tempted to think that whatever about the numbers game and difficulties in getting over to France last week or getting into Paris this week, the message is that the markets are there and they need servicing in the run-up to Christmas.
On the mart front, trade moved very well last week as those early price moves by the factories worked their way through the system, resulting in increases of up to €4/hd for lamb reported.
Reports from marts such as Kilkenny and Athenry yesterday indicated that while numbers were up on the previous week, in general prices held.
Neilius McAuliffe explained that while prices had bobbed up and down, the downs had come when expected and while getting prices up is never easy, the market in general had responded. Here last week 37-44kg lambs sold from €88-103/hd, with 29kg and 30kg lambs making €67-69/hd. Scots lamb in the 25-37kg range sold from €48-70/hd. Cull ewes made up to €100hd.
Stephen Hannon reported that lambs have improved by €3-4/hd. He quoted your typical 46-47kg lamb as making €110-112/hd, with a top of €114/hd achieved for a batch weighing 50kg. Stephen reckoned that meal feeding had been well worth the cost in the longer term this year. "Most sheep men got on well this year," was his end-of-year report.
This was a large sale with business being described a "very lively for all classes". Both factory and butchers' lambs were reported as being better by €3-5/hd. Butcher types sold from €115-122/hd, with factory types making €105-114/hd. Store lambs made €77-102/hd. Cull ewes made €105-122/hd, while feeding ewes sold for €67-103/hd.
Numbers remained steady here with the top call of the day for finished lamb going to a batch of 62kg lambs that sold for €115/hd. Other prices of note saw several batches of 53-59kg making €113/hd, with a number in the 48-49kg bracket making €106-112/hd. Prices for store types saw 38.9kg making €93.50/kg back to €73/hd for 35.7kg.
Yesterday saw bigger numbers, no doubt encouraged by last week's strengthening in factory price. Despite those factory quotes easing back locally, George Candler reported prices on a par with last week. Butchers' lambs sold for €108-119/hd, with factory lambs making €€98-109/hd. Trade for stores saw price fluctuate from €68-95/hd. Cull ewes sold from €50-116/hd.
This was a lively sale with full clearance. Sample prices among the particularly strong show of lambs saw 46kgs making €97/hd, 58.5kg ram lambs made €112/hd, while 37-41kg ewe lambs sold for €81-85/hd. Cull ewes sold for €81-121/hd, with a majority selling in the €90-100/hd bracket.