Confidence boost as factory prices give market a lift

The mart trade of the last week has seen further improvements in prices across virtually all classes of stock as farmers continue to invest on the back of excellent factory prices, tightness in numbers, improved weather and improving grass supplies.

Richard Hartnett of Castleisland probably summed it up best though when he said, “It’s all about confidence, Martin, and that’s a word most farmers can now spell backwards.”

Starting in Bandon on Monday, where Tom McCarthy reported that they had 305 cattle and 545 calves on offer.

Tom told me there were a couple of interesting features to the sale, the first was that their heifer numbers had effectively halved from 150 of two weeks ago to about 75 this week. However, they had a very large turnout of 550kg. and up weight bullocks. “Most were 2010 born with an odd ’09 one in there as well”, he said. Another interesting feature was the arrival of northern buyers intent on filling their quota with forward heavier stock. “They were a big addition to the sale, but many of the locals stayed the course as well, mind.” The result of this new blood ringside saw the average price for all bullocks over 550kg hit €740 over their weight! Calves too roared ahead, according to Tom, with prices up by as much as €70 to €80, with the stronger Friesian types “exceptionally dear”. It was, he said, “As good a sale as we’ve had in a while.”

Meanwhile in “Confident Castleisland” also on Monday last, Richard Hartnett was busy putting 350 calves under the hammer. Friesians in particular, as in Bandon, “held very well, especially the reared calves of two months and over,” he said. Despite the fact that the shippers had little opposition from farmers for their requirements, shipping calves still averaged €150 to €175 a head, with the better type Friesian bulls, “farmer stock” ranging from €250 to €300 a head. Heifers too “held very well” with Angus and Herefords very much in demand. Richard also had a number of very good quality 2010 August born weanlings on show. Sample prices included a 490 kg Charolais bull that made €1,225 and another of 403 kg who made €1,075. These were “potentially U grade” animals, he said. With that sort of quality does it matter how you spell “confidence?”

Moving to Kanturk on Tuesday, Michael Scanlon tells me they had 300 cattle and 300 calves on offer. Again as in Bandon there was a large showing of heavier type stock.

“We had a lot of cattle in the 600 to 700 kilo bracket but the lighter store, the 400-500 kilo animal appears to be scarce” Michael said. As I noted down the weights and prices my attention was caught by a large bunch of Aberdeen Angus bullocks. 12 together that averaged 748 kilos and made 1600 each! Enquiring as to their origin he told me they were so big that they nearly filled the ring, but more interestingly that they came from a dairy herd.

“They were one man’s own cattle, that he kept and left lie on,” Michael said. “Yes, and probably out of good Friesian cows with no caesareans required; a real win, win situation,” I commented. I often think that despite the fact that we farmers are constantly being advised to breed better and better conformation animals, little real attention is paid to the cost of calving these more “complicated” animals, but that’s just my own opinion.

Next it’s back to Monday last and the trade at Mid Tipp Mart in Thurles. My sources tell me it was another excellent sale with a full clearance of the 460 animals on show. Prices were reported as being similar to the previous week as farmers continue to top up their numbers in the hope of bringing grass supplies back under control.

Meanwhile down the road in Kilmallock, Denis Kirby was in fine form and informed me that they’re figures show that Monday last’s sale of 1,089 cattle and 374 calves represented a 20% increase on the same day last year. The sizeable increase in numbers, he said, was made up mainly to more dry cows, weanlings and heifers. Denis speculated that the reason for the increase was down to a combination of good prices being paid by grazers and finishers, plus the need for some farmers to offload stock due to the recent poor weather. That said the buyers “don’t seem bothered about the weather,” Denis commented.

However, on balance he reckons that because prices are so strong “its easier to put together four or five grand than it has been for a long time” This appears especially true for dairy men who can cash in what Denis called “cows that are gone past their best before date for milking”. Very handy, he said, “if you want to pay a contracting bill.”

Leaving Limerick and heading north to Sean Ryan and the sale in Sixmilebridge in Clare on Saturday. I began by asking was it safe for a Waterford man to ask for a mart report following our victory last Sunday. “I’m originally from Galway,” came the reply, “and we did very well!” Feeling a bit like I just been hooked and lost the ball I decided to move on!

Trade, Sean said, was “flying on Saturday with numbers very strong and prices up if that’s possible”. It was possible, as he continued that they’d seen a thousand with the weight being paid on a number of occasions a figure he said “not reached with nearly two months.”

Numbers, though, he thought were exceptional. “We thought by now we’d be back to one ring for selling, but we had two going on Saturday.”

Sean referred back to a conversation we had a month or so ago on the same subject reaffirming his belief “that some farmers must be gone to breeding all year round judging by the number of weanlings coming out now. That or they’re keeping them longer to get more weight.”

Leaving Munster and heading into Leinster and Monday’s sale in Carlow. Jimmy Walsh told me they had 300 cattle on offer, “a bigger sale than previous weeks with a right few strong cattle in it and a full clearance.” Jimmy had made a study of one man who over the last number of weeks has brought and sold 36 “good forward Charolise cattle, all very evenly matched from one sale to the next. Twelve each time.”

The first week they averaged €2.41 a kilo, the next week €2.42 and last Saturday €2.44. A clear indication of not only the quality of the stock but the confidence in the trade. Always a man to look forward, Jimmy reckons that the poor weather of recent times may result in stock having to be housed earlier this year than previously.

His logic is interesting. He reckons that because a lot of silage was at least two weeks late being cut, due to the weather, the supply of after grass will be thinner and shorter lived.

This means that the reserve grass on the grazing paddocks may not get the opportunity to get far enough ahead for the autumn.

Down the road, the previous Thursday saw 550 cattle in Kilkenny Marts sales yards, with auctioneer George Chandler saying “that allowing for the horrendous weather trade was tremendous.”

As in other places George told me that the numbers of heavier cattle “650 kg + were up”.

Noticeable as well, he said, has been the fact that “stud farms have become far more active than previously around the ring”. Cull cows continue to thrive with Continentals making from €1.70 to €2.27 a kilo and Friesians €1.20 to €2.05 a kilo.”

Further to this he added “That cows were up €20 to €30 a head despite factory quotes being back five pence a pound.”

Moving west of the Shannon to Tuam mart where Marion Devanam told me they had 150 cattle on Monday just gone. A small enough sale, she said, but understandable given the day of the year. Notwithstanding the size, confidence, which is what I started this report with, was very strong and was summed up by the fact a five year old Belgian Blue cow who weighed 780 kilos and sold for breeding made €2,220!

On a completely different note, Marion, like Jimmy Walsh of Carlow, speculated a little on the weather, her prediction, sorry, what she heard somebody say, was “that some fellow has said that with the changing of the moon on the 3rd of July we will get two fine weeks!”

I really wish I could meet this fellow because every year this same “some fellow” ramps up everyone’s expectations and then no one seems to be able to get a word of explanation out of him when it doesn’t happen!

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