When reporting on the subject of mart prices, and specifically the Friesian bull calf at the marts, I suppose I am fairly biased.
Having spent the last couple of years buying and rearing calves, and then counting the cost of my adventures, I have come to the conclusion, like many more, that no matter how much the calf costs at the mart, he costs too much. Is there anyone these days taking the calf rearer into consideration?
Does our world have to continually revolve around the well-being of the well looked after dairy farmer?
One farmer/calf buyer I spoke to this week bluntly stated that not only should the Friesian bull calf be free, but a subsidy should be attached to his tail, to give the farmer who chooses to take him on a reason to do so.
Without such incentives, right now, there is little sound reason to take up the Friesian bull calf buying challenge.
While the dairy farmer might object to such a suggestion, the man or woman buying the calf will very shortly need nothing less than a subsidised purchase, if they are to stick to the chore.
“There ain’t no romance without finance,” was a line from a big hit song by Gwen Guthrie back in the 1980s. And I’m telling you now, there will shortly be no calf rearing here in Ireland, through a lack of financial reward.
Just like romance, you can’t have one without the other. The profit simply isn’t in the business at the end of the day. The outlay to begin the task is too great. The co-op and the dairy farmer are the only ones gaining out of the enterprise. And the dairy farmer, in spite of what he might say, is doing fine.
He has been in the pink most years since the abolition of the milk quota, with the beef farmer across the road eternally in the red. It’s about time a little of the love was shared with the calf rearer, and a little less tears shed for the dairy farmer. Meanwhile, mart manager Tom McCarthy has reported a good trade for calves at Bandon.
Shipping Friesian bulls sold from €25 to €80 per head, with stronger types (suitable for the local farmer buyer) making up to €160 a head. Bandon mart had 1,550 calves on offer on Monday.
And looking at the larger animal, dry cows in Bandon sold from €50 under to €400 with the kilo. Friesian bullocks made from €200 to €550 with the kilo. Aberdeen Angus and Hereford bullocks sold from €250 to €600 with the kilo. Continental bullocks made from €400 to €800 with the kilo. Heifers in Bandon on Monday sold from €250 to €850 with their weight.
Kilkenny mart on Thursday saw a big sale of cattle, mart manager George Candler gave us all the details.
“We had the biggest sale of 2019, so far, here on Thursday with 1,000 stock on offer.
“Trade remains very firm, especially for continental type bullocks and heifers.
“The bulk of Friesian bullocks ranged from €1.55 to €1.85 per kilo, with forward store continental bullocks and heifers ranging from €2.15 to €2.55 per kilo.
“Dairy-influenced Aberdeen Angus and Hereford, especially heifers, are the most difficult to sell.
“Cull cow prices appear to have steadied, especially for the lesser animal, perhaps due to smaller numbers appearing.”
And switching to Monday’s dairy sale at Kilkenny, George added, “In the dairy ring, the trade is showing the confidence that is present for all involved in this sector of agriculture.
“Trade peaked at €1,940 for a fresh calved Friesian cow on her third lactation.
“Fresh calved Friesian heifers ranged from €1,350 to €1,840 per head.”
In Skibbereen on Friday, dry cows sold from €1/kg to €800 with the kilo.
Continental bullocks made from €300 to €700 with the kilo.
Aberdeen Angus and Hereford bullocks sold from €250 to €550 with the kilo.
Weanling bulls in Skibbereen on Friday sold from €280 to €620 with the kilo.
The heavy snow that fell in the Kilmallock area on Sunday afternoon led to a small turnout of cattle at the mart on Monday.
However, there was nothing chilly about the trade, with Denis Kirby of GVM reporting “a strong demand”, and 126 buyers doing business.
Bullocks in Kilmallock sold for up to €2.86/kg. Dry cows made up to €1.56/kg.
Heifers hit €2.28/kg with dairy stock making up to €1450 a head.
Looking ahead to Tuesday night’s sale, the intake opens at 3pm, with the sale of weanling bulls in ring 1 commencing at 6pm.
And the sale of suckler cows and weanling heifers in ring 2 begins at 6.30pm.
Wednesday evening’s calf sale will begin at 6.45pm.
In Macroom mart on Saturday, dry cows sold from €100 under to €345 over the kilo. Continental bullocks in Macroom sold from €320 to €810 with their weight.
Hereford and Aberdeen Angus bullocks made from €230 to €600 with their weight.
Heifers in Macroom made from €250 to €650 with the kilo.
Dungarvan mart manager, Ger Flynn, reported “a very good cattle and calf trade, with a stronger farmer presence,” following Monday’s mart sale.
Friesian bull calves at Dungarvan sold from €15 to €40 with up to €150 paid for stronger Friesian bull calves.
Ann Keane of Clare Co-Op mart gave us the following report on last Thursday’s cattle sale at Ennis mart.
“The month of February finished on a good tone with numbers strong, we had over 900 on offer and a good trade all round.
“It must be said that there was a great run of quality store bullocks available on Thursday.
“Quality was a bit more variable in the heifer ring. There were 240 cull cows on offer with a good mix of dairy and continental culls about. Again, trade for the feeder cows was good.
Looking at the more recent sale of suckler and weanling stock in Ennis, on Tuesday, Ann added, “Numbers are holding very strong with almost 1,000 on offer yet again, which included 250 calves.
“The trade for calves was better than expected, with the majority of Friesian bulls selling between €40 and €70 and better, stronger ones making to €120.
“Herefords generally made €150 to €250 and Angus made €100 to €200, with continentals making up to to €390.
“Pairs in the suckler ring generally made €1,050 to €1,710 but a top call of €2,300 for a real top quality pair.
In-calf sucklers made to €1,750. “Again, quality in the bull and heifer rings was well appreciated with prices achieved.”
To wrap up for this week, auctioneer Noel Corcoran of Castleisland mart reports “increased numbers of cattle once again at our sale this week.
“We had excellent clearance rates with prices for all categories on an upward swing, this being particularly applicable to the quality lots,” said Noel.
“At our recent clearance sale of dairy cows, prices ranged from €1000 to €1620, with a full clearance recorded. Suckler cows were also very much in demand and ranged in price from €980 to €1700, depending on whether in-calf or with calf at foot.
“Monday’s calf and weanling sale here in Castleisland saw 760 calves come under the hammer with a great clearance recorded.”
Adverse weather over the weekend slightly hampered shippers, with delays in sailings.
“But in spite of this, all calves found a home. Continental bulls sold to a high of €485, with continental heifers realising up to €350.”