Trade maintained by need to fill grazing quotas

Nenagh mart manager Michael Harty summed up Tuesday’s sale with the phrase, “The confidence is just tremendous.”

And why? He replied, “The weather, supply, grass, everything has come in the live trade’s favour.”

He told me that they had a yard of 700 cattle in the morning and by close of business, they had achieved a “complete clearance.” Farmer buyers were once again the dominant force, with their need to fill spring grazing quotas sustaining the upward trend.

The reality, he said, is simple, “There are more men looking for cattle than there are stock available.” While numbers in the various sale yards may vary up and down, Michael’s statement rings true across the country.

And nowhere more so than in Kilmallock. With a turn out of 2,870 animals on Monday, of which 1,382 were calves, it was a sale that saw returns of €2.4 million!

Bullocks made up to €3.24 a kilo with dry cows topping €2 a kilo and store heifers heading for €4 a kilo. Margaret Noonan and Denis Kirby, who keep a tally on all transactions in the office, reported the place, “jammed with stock and buyers.”

Their report showed 448 buyers from 28 counties.

Monday also saw the Kilmallock’s spring show and sale, with immense interest from the packed audience. The champion calved heifer shown by Kieran Cahill from Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry, found a new home in West Limerick for the top price of €2150.

The animal with the highest EBI (Economic Breeding Index), the property of Maurice A Noonan, changed hands for €1920.

Although there were too many classes to mention individually, it’s fair to say that the trade across all classes reflected the national confidence that has permeated farming, as the animals were judged and the cheques written.

Also on Monday, across the border in Co Kerry, Castleisland mart had no shortage of stock or buyers. With 1100 calves on offer, Richard Hartnett said there was a very good demand but with prices possibly “steadying a bit”.

Having said that, one Belgian Blue bull calf made €770!

Friesian bull calves for the home trade made €175-275. Friesian bull calves for shipping made €135-170.

BB heifer calves made €450-500.

Heifers calves (out of good Friesian cows), four to six weeks old made €330-430.

Richard told me that the previous Wednesday’s general cattle sale had seen what he described as, “A more cautious approach taken by some buyers”, However, the example he gave of 513kg Hereford cross bullocks making €1250 is still up there with the best of them.

Notwithstanding some caution, smaller stock were “serious”, with 380kg Charolais bull weanlings making €1080.

It was at this point in my compiling of this report that I had a visit from a man who buys 100 or so stores for fattening every year.

He theorised that although the Olympics in London were possibly going to be important in providing a boost to the trade, he suggested that the Queen’s jubilee celebrations might be more important.

He reminded me that Prince William’s wedding last year had seen the beef market here rise, as the celebrations went nation wide in the U, and demand for barbecue beef soared.

Should the British Government decide to honour Her Majesty with an official state holiday, the same could happen again.

Returning to the here and now, I decided my next port of call was to be Ballyjamesduff mart in Co Cavan, and mart manager Michael Reilly.

While much of the south and east of the country has a majority of dairy enterprises with a good smattering of mixed farms, Michael told me his mart handles a majority of suckler type animals.

This was reflected in the fact that all examples given were of continental type animals with Charolais in the majority.

I asked Michael whether they got many buyers from across the border.

“We get a share of northern men.” However, with the trade so strong, they are apparently finding the going pretty tough. Even with the 20c in the euro advantage, the northern men are being “taken out of cattle by the locals on a regular basis.”

I had begun compiling this week’s report with a phone call to Sean Ryan, manager of the new Sixmilenbridge mart in Co Clare.

I have kept his contribution until last because — like many others in the trade — he made some astute observations, but he also asked some telling questions.

Sean told me they didn’t have a sale last Saturday due to our national holiday, and as a result, he expects the entry this coming Saturday to be bigger than normal.

We chatted for a time about the trade, with Sean drawing comparisons between the cost of continental type summer fatteners and their Friesian cousins.

He noted that “good Charolais types” were now sometimes making €3 a kilo or €1000 over their weight, while the Friesian animal was around €2.20, or €550-600 over the weight.

“All of them will be put to grass for slaughter next autumn, but the question is will the man with the really good bullock get paid enough by the factory?”

He suggested that the factories need to be asked whether or not they are prepared to offer contracts for autumn supplies, given the very serious level of commitment been shown by farmers to the industry?

It’s a very fair question, and with reports that factories may try to pull the price of grass-finished stock later this year back to between €3.70 and €3.80, it’s one worthy of investigation by our farm organisations.

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