Steady as she goes but some Friesians sell better this week

Like a ship making to port, mart reports this week seem to indicate a “steady as she goes” approach.

With numbers possibly easier in places, prices are broadly reported as “similar to good” for quality continental types, with Angus and Herefords seeing a lift.

The trade for the better Friesian animal has steadied, with some marts reporting a marked improvement in demand for these types.

Typical of this scenario was Corrin on Tuesday. “We had good numbers out again this week, although maybe a little smaller than last week,” said mart manager Sean Leahy.

A change from previous weeks saw what Sean described as “handy cattle” develop into “a very good trade”.

Specifically, “Nice Hereford or Angus of 350 to 450kg were up maybe €50 to €70 a head,” he said. Noticeable as well, according to Sean, was the number of “new faces” present.

“We had a lot of new faces, lads that come out maybe only a couple of times a year but who seemed to all turn up on Tuesday.”

With these extra buyers mixing it up with the regulars, “The real good continental bullock was a fine trade,” Sean commented.

Also benefiting was the 500 to 550kg Friesian animal which Sean described as “steady”, while “lighter Friesian types made from €170 to €400 with the weight.” Also improved were heifers, with Sean noticing that, “there was a very strong demand for better quality Limousins and Charolais, as replacements.”

Moving to Carrick on Suir where auctioneer Michael Cunningham said, “We were back a bit in numbers on Friday, but not so many”. Again it was the case of the quality animal commanding the real serious money. “One lot of real belters of 600kg continentals made €1,375,” Michael said. The trade for the better Friesian type bullock was also “serious”, with “Friesians around the 500kg mark regularly pushing €400 with the weight.” Heifer numbers were also back on the previous week, with Michael describing the trade as, “steady” with a stronger demand for the heavier types.

“Have to say, it was a good trade, maybe even a little more positive than last week.” said Tom McCarthy when describing last Monday’s sale in Bandon.

The recent dry spell, Tom reckons, is helping the trade, “Cattle are looking and weighing well, which is helping them to sell well,” he said.

As would be the case in Corrin the following day, the mid-range 400 to 500kg bullock was in demand. “Anything with good cover and looking respectable sold well,” Tom said. Although the plainer lighter type Holstein-Friesian was under some pressure, “the better quality Friesian bullock was up on last week and sold well.” With 80% of their sale comprising of “store types”, Tom reckoned that “the nicer Friesian, Hereford and Angus bullock” saw the biggest improvement in price, while the “continentals continued strong but unchanged,” he said.

Across the border in Castleisland, numbers were increased. “We had a big sale of weanlings on Monday, although prices were similar to other weeks,” said Richard Harnet. Lighter bulls made from €2.25 to 2.30 a kg, with heavier ones €2.40, he said. Heifers were a “brisk trade”, with prices ranging from €2.20 to €2.50 a kg, with Aberdeen Angus and Herefords making €2 a kg, while the better continental types pushed €2.50, he said.

Moving next to Kilmallock, where Denis Kirby said Monday saw “a noticeable presence of farmers purchasing for winter feeding”.

Denis felt that continentals were up €20 to €25 a head for the choice lots, while the Friesian “was more in demand, with one man alone taking home 41.” While the buyers who individually shift big numbers are always welcome — especially in a total sale for all classes of 1,820 animals — Denis considers that it was the “lads who buy the threes, fours and fives, that really keep the sale going”.

The heifer ring saw “a good all-round trade” with shippers going “toe to toe with farmers who were buying for shed feeding,” he said. In relation to last Friday’s Hereford bull sale in Kilmallock, Denis said “Competition was very keen”, with “last year’s prices being surpassed by as much as €800 an animal on occasion”.

Down the road in Kanturk on Tuesday, Michael Scanlon reported “another good turn out” of stock, with “a lot of good quality stock”. Michael commented — as did Tom McCarthy of Bandon on Monday — that cattle are looking well despite the bad summer. “We had a lot of good stores on Monday, and nothing looking hungry.”

As at other marts, it was the 400 to 550kg animal that formed the majority. Also similar was that the Friesian animal appeared to be recovering in price, with Michael saying, “No Friesian was sold for less than €200 with the weight”. With a good number of heavy cattle through the sale, factory buyers were very active. “The factory men bought anything with flesh,” Michael said. Their interest stretched from bullocks to “heifers fit for the knife”, to cows and the occasional heavy bull. Michael cited the examples of a Friesian cow of 820kg making €1,320 and a bull of 945 kg making €1,760!

Monday’s sale in Thurles saw 800 animals present, with manager Martin Ryan telling me that although numbers had eased a bit (especially the numbers of stronger forward cattle), “the men coming to the counter afterwards thought prices were strong.” Again, it was the Friesian bullock that appeared most improved, with Martin pointing to a bunch of 480kg animals making €845, as being typical of what the better ones were capable of on the day.

Bullock numbers “were less than previously” he said, but this was offset by a large turnout of suckler stock, the numbers of which were further swelled by a special clearance sale of Shorthorn sucklers. Although not entirely rare, herds of Shorthorns are not overly common either and the interest in them was “phenomenal”, Martin said. A majority of them were sold with calves at foot, and comparing their prices to their more fancy continental cousins — mainly Limousins on the day — also with calves at foot, makes interesting reading. Here are a few samples: Shorthorn 780kg €1,420, Limousin 660kg €1,350; Shorthorn 670kg €1,400, Limousin 610kg €1,470. These figures may or may not pose some interesting questions for the boys in Teagasc.

I finish this week with the sale in Sixmilebridge. With a near full yard of cattle on Saturday, and another full yard expected this Saturday, Sean Ryan said, “Stores have picked up again, especially the forward store.”

Trade was “strong for everything with the possible exception of the weanlings,” Sean said.

He believes there are two things at play in relation to the weanling trade at the moment. The first is that “the quality is less this year”, not due to poorer breeding but due to the lack of thrive during the summer. The other thing is that Sean believes that “The autumn flush of weanlings has yet to come”.

On a completely different note, Sean told me that the form wasn’t too great with him, explaining that a lifetime friend had dropped dead from a heart attack last week. The man was just 54 years of age.

Our health is probably one thing a lot of us men don’t consider, even as we get older, and country men are possible worse than their city cousins, but it’s one thing we should get checked every now and then, not just for our selves, but also for our families.

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