The poor Friesian bull calf is like ‘nobody’s child’ in the marts

This Friesian calved heifer, born January 2017 and with an EBI of €108, sold for €1,520 at Kanturk’s dairy sale.

A farmer warned me earlier this week that I should make sure all outhouses and sheds were locked up tightly every night. “Don’t wake up one morning to find them all filled with calves,” he said.

While his comment was of course said in jest, he wasn’t a million miles from the truth.

And the truth this spring is that I’m almost sorry not to be rearing calves. With the price of a Friesian bull coming into my range (which is somewhere between next to nothing and nothing), he is almost a viable option.

For the first time in years, money could be made from calf rearing.

But it’s no surprise, from a domestic point of view, that a collapse has taken place.

With many of us grown weary of both the enterprise and those who encouraged us to take the plunge, only a few diehards remain.

The trade simply isn’t there. The love is gone. But good luck to the diehards who remain in calf rearing, I hope 2019 is the year you prosper. Nobody deserves it more.

As for the dairy farmer, he has the consolation of a whopper of a milk cheque to wipe away any tears he might be shedding over the bull calf trade. And let’s not forget the better half. The Friesian heifer. She is flying high.

In the calf ring in Bandon on Monday, Friesian heifer calves sold from €120 to €200 a head.

And at a dairy sale in Kanturk on Saturday, calved heifers under two years were comfortably passing the €1,500 mark.

I saw them sell myself. There was no shortage of money in Kanturk on Saturday, bar of course, in my own pocket, as usual.

So all in all, it’s far from a lost cause for the dairy farmer.

He can afford the hit as he still has the main course to feast on.

The Friesian bull is merely the icing on the cake.

Kanturk - Tuesday


And so, into the marts we go, beginning with a large sale of cattle and calves in Kanturk and Tuesday, mart manager Seamus O’Keeffe gave us all the details.

“We had a big sale of 1,620 animals, this number included 740 calves.

“We had plenty of customers for all cattle but as you mentioned in your mart report last week, the poor Friesian bull is like the song ‘Nobody’s Child’.

“Store bullocks and heifers, Aberdeen Angus and Hereford, were making up to €2.20 per kg here on Tuesday.”

The next dairy sale in Kanturk takes place this Saturday March 16, starting at 1pm sharp.

This sale will include a complete clearance sale of 40 top class dairy cows for Noel Buckley, Foyle, Ballydesmond, Co Cork.

Other dairy stock will be sold immediately afterwards.

Bandon - Monday


Bandon mart on Monday had over 1,600 calves on offer. Hereford and Aberdeen Angus bulls sold from €145 to €345.

Continental bulls sold from €180 to €395 per head.

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 €400 with the kilo. Continental bullocks made up to €720 with the kilo.

Aberdeen Angus and Hereford bullocks sold from €250 to €560 with the kilo.

Heifers in Bandon sold from €250 to €630 with their weight at Monday’s mart.

Kilkenny - Thursday


Switching to the calves of Kilkenny, mart manager George Candler gave us this report following Tuesday’s calf sale at Kilkenny mart.

“We had a somewhat smaller sale of calves on Tuesday in Kilkenny, with lighter shipping type bulls more difficult to sell due to a backlog of calves as a result of cancellation of ferry space,” said George Candler.

“The limited lairage facilities in France needs to be resolved for next year, as does the limited ferry accommodation for calf exports.

“We had 500 calves on offer with farmer buyers keeping a floor on better type Friesian bulls,” he said.

And looking back at last Thursday’ general cattle sale in Kilkenny, George noted that it was a smaller sale.

“We had a smaller sale of cattle here on Thursday with an excellent demand for all quality continentals in both the bullock and heifer ring.

“The bulk of these animals saw prices range, for quality lots, from €2.25 to €2.80 per kilo.

“The quality Aberdeen Angus and Hereford animal was also in demand, with prices here ranging from €1.80 to €2.15 per kilo, and in cases up to €2.20 per kilo.

“There were also farmers sourcing British Friesian type bullocks with close on €2 per kilo for the top lots with the bulk ranging from €1.65 to €1.85 per kilo.”

Skibbereen - Friday


Skibbereen mart on Friday had bigger numbers on offer. Dry cows here sold from €50 under to €400 with the kilo. Continental bullocks made from €300 to €700 with the kilo.

Aberdeen Angus and Hereford bullocks sold from €300 to €520 with the kilo.

Heifers here sold from €300 to €700 with the kilo. Dairy stock in Skibbereen sold from €800 to €1,240 with the kilo. Suckler stock made from €1200 to €1,440 in Skibbereen on Friday.

Kilmallock - Monday


Some 1,200 cattle and calves were on offer last Monday at Kilmallock (740 valves). Denis Kirby of GVM reported “a strong cattle trade.”

Bullocks in Kilmallock sold for up to €2.25 per kg. The mart had 105 weanlings on offer, selling for up to €2.64 per kg. Denis Kirby reported “a stronger trade for dry cows this week.” Dry cows in Kilmallock sold for up to €1040 a head, or €1.50 per kg.

Heifers made up to €2.10 per kg. Dairy stock sold for up to €1,450 a head.

Busy mart in Macroom

Meanwhile, in Macroom mart on Saturday, dry cows sold from €75 under to €575 over the kilo. Continental bullocks in Macroom sold from €330 to €705 with their weight. Hereford and Aberdeen Angus bullocks made from €240 to €620 with their weight. Heifers in Macroom made from €220 to €605 with the kilo.

Macroom - Saturday


Next to Castleisland mart, and to mart manager John Humphreys for his report on a successful week of trading.

“An absolute flyer, is the only way I can describe last Wednesday’s cattle sale here in Castleisland. We had plenty of farmer interest, with bullock and heifers prices up on the previous week.”

Castleisland - Wednesday


And switching to Monday’s calf, weanling and suckler sale in Castleisland, John added: “A full clearance was recorded with weanling bulls and heifers which were very much in demand.”

“We saw 1,150 calves go through the ring in Castleisland with an exceptional clearance rate.

“Friesian bull calves for export sold from €30 to €80, with a lot of exceptionally well bred Friesian bulls realising a high of €240 a head,” he said.

Big sale in Ennis

And finally for this week Ann Keane of Clare CO-Op marts reports on Tuesday’s weanling sale in Ennis.

“We had a big sale again on Tuesday, despite the adverse weather. The trade held quite firm, especially for quality lots. Some nice quality store types about today. The heavier bull not as lively as the lighter store type. Despite the weather, a few extra customers about in the bull and heifer ring and more export activity also. Suckler pairs made up to €2,180, with in-calf stock making up to €1,450.

“Dairy stock made up to €1,400. Calves met a very solid trade, but some nice quality stock available and mostly 3 weeks old. Friesian bulls ranged from €15 to €155 with the better quality well fed calves making €80 to €155.”

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