British breeds catching up to continental prices

By the time I had this week’s mart report completed, I had heard of stock being re-housed in Cork because of the wet, a scarcity of grass in Meath because of the cold, and a mart in Kerry that takes in foreign coach tours on mart days!

Meanwhile, in another Kerry mart, at Castleisland, mart manager Richard Hartnett reported a strong trade on Monday for the 750 calves on offer — but no tourists, except for a few buyers from the West of Ireland among the large attendance looking to source good white head heifers for breeding.

“Trade was very good,” Richard said, “with Friesian bulls being especially sought after, with the locals taking the shippers out of a lot of the better stock.”

He reported the “average type” Friesian as trading between €160 and €200, with the shippers not pushing beyond €170.

The stronger types, six weeks and up, made between €250 and €270.

Discussing the trade in more detail, he commented that it has become very noticeable that the British breeds — Hereford and Aberdeen Angus — have caught up to the continentals in price.

Having heard that some shippers are now saying they can buy the better stock cheaper on the continent, I wondered, has the ceiling been reached here on price? The other side of that particular coin is, if they are cheaper, why do they still come?

Meanwhile, in Tuam, manager Marian Devaney told me that they had 500 cattle on offer on Monday.

There was a very good turn out of buyers, having travelled from Meath, Mayo and Roscommon, supplementing the locals and shippers.

Marion said the sale was dominated to some degree by a number of buyers who took bigger numbers of cattle, 25 to 30 animals each.

They, she suspects, had just finished emptying their sheds, and struck hot and hard on their first day out buying.

One individual bought a total of 30 Charolais ranging in price from €1480 to €1650!

Marion commented that while shippers have been very active in recent times buying the better type weanlings, farmer sellers need to realise that if an animal dies in transit or upon arriving at the feed lot, the shippers will know from their mart records not only which mart the animal was bought in, but also who the vendor was.

“If they discover the cause was the animal wasn’t dosed or vaccinated properly by the farmer, they will not buy from him again.”

Moving to the Royal county of Meath, Carnaross had just over 1,000 cattle on offer on Monday. John Tevlin reported the trade as being, “Far healthier than the Meath football team”.

Despite the attendance of a number of men from the North who came to the ring with a favourable exchange rate and the ability to reclaim the VAT on any stock they bought, he told me the locals went home with the majority of what they wanted.

Bullocks were “possibly a little easier”, this probably due to the Grand National race meeting at Fairyhouse, also on Monday, which traditionally sees those with an interest in the horse game taking the day off.

Another factor at play was the cold weather, with John commenting that with so many men having put stock to grass early, the recent drop in temperatures had effectively halted grass growth.

The calf trade was very strong, with coloured calves in particular “a great trade.” Asked how he saw things panning out over the next few weeks, he said that should numbers remain strong at the marts, it could be possible that the money might start to run a bit thin.

The money remains strong down in Co Limerick, however, with Kilmallock on Monday seeing a yard of 2,416 animals, including 987 calves.

With a full clearance achieved, prices were reported as well maintained with no easing off in any category, with stronger calves and younger stock generally improved.

Examples included a six week old Charolais bull calf making €670, and a four week old Limousin fetching €650.

Dairy stock also continued to fetch serious money, with a two-year-old calved heifer making €1600, and a second making €1500.

Sucklers also saw champion prices, with €2100 being paid on occasion.

Moving to the Tueday sale in Kanturk, it was a similar story of a big sale, 1,050 animals on offer including 550 calves, and no shortage of buyers.

Mart manager Seamus O’Keeffe said if there was a damper on the trade, it was the recent change in the weather, and the arrival of the rain.

He told me he had heard of a man whose ground was a shade on the heavy side deciding to put his stock back indoors.

With many farms already well into their first grazing cycle, it is to be hoped that the weather doesn’t decide to get too complicated. Older stock can manage the odd wet day, however, should it also become cold, it gets trickier.

Leaving the weather to one side, Seamus told me they had a good turn out of dealing men from the midlands on Tuesday and that they were very interested in calves.

Prices ranged from €150- 350 for Friesian bulls suitable for the farming trade, with the shippers giving €150-180 for the Holstein types.

Stores of 400-500 kg were again in short supply, and with the Kanturk region traditionally not a strong fattening area, “heavy cattle were very scarce”

Finally to last Thursday, and the sale in Kenmare.

If you really want to get in on the ground floor of the cattle business, the obvious thing to do is to go to your local livestock mart on mart day.

There, you’ll be in the company of your fellow farmers and cattle dealers, all expert stock judges — plus 50 to 60 German tourists!

Mart manager Dan McCarthy tells me they sold 226 yearlings last Thursday in a sale that saw plenty of competition.

While Kenmare mart may not be the biggest in the country, it certainly has got to take the prize as the most enterprising.

I have to admit to being totally distracted from the details of the sale by hearing that Kenmare mart is now a recognised stop on a Thursday morning for a tour bus of foreign visitors from a hotel in Tralee.

Dan tells me they arrive at about 10.30 and stay for an hour and a half or so and then go on their way.

Apparently it’s a great success, with the continentals mingling with the locals, examining the stock and generally loving the experience. What can you say only that it’s totally brilliant on so many levels?

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