Cattle markets report: Off-farm income, only money source for hard-pressed beef farmers

I really believe that one of the greatest calamities to hit rural Ireland in my lifetime was our decision to go down the road of the ‘off-farm income’.
Cattle markets report: Off-farm income, only money source for hard-pressed beef farmers

Well, ‘off-farm income’ sounded like a great idea at first. A bit of extra cash in the pocket to supplement the farm income. How bad could it be?

Of course, the bean counters who tap into farming as a source of revenue soon saw that this off-farm income meant a new opportunity to squeeze an extra bit of life out of the farmer and his farm.

We were earning an off-farm income after all, we were holding down two jobs — we were no pity. So an increase then on the price of products and services sold to the farmer, and a decrease in the price paid for the produce we sell.

Now we have come to a situation where, in beef farming in particular, off-farm income is really the only income we have. An industry that employs so many has the main man, the farmer, earning little or nothing.

How many beef farmers today operate successfully without an off-farm income?

Close on none, I suspect. We produce the finest beef on the planet, yet we are rewarded with peanuts. It is a scandal. We should demand better. We deserve better.

So now we’ll go and look at the marts before I lose my cool entirely and blow a head gasket or some other vital organ. We will begin with Bandon where it looks like the Friesian bull calf will hold his ground for the remainder of the year.

With April dawning on Saturday, the only fools around are those who believed that calf prices would collapse in 2017. The farmer who bought the early calf this year was the clever clogs.

In Bandon on Monday the Friesian bull sold from €90 to €240. Shipping calves made up to €140 a head, with Friesian calves destined for a more local berth fetching up to €240 a head.

Calf numbers are also holding well, Bandon mart had 1710 calves on Monday, so plenty of work all the time for the calf drover.

Bandon had 160 dry cows on offer with mart manager Tom McCarthy describing the trade as “savage”.

Dry cows sold from €75 to €700 with the kilo. Aberdeen Angus and Hereford bullocks sold from €300 to €800 with the weight.

Continental bullocks sold from €400 to €800 with the kilo. Friesian bullocks in Bandon made from €200 to €500 with the kilo. Heifers here made from €300 to €700 with the kilo.

Bandon

Monday

No Breed Sex Weight €

2 AA steers 632kg 1440

5 Fr steers 338kg 730

8 Hr steers 454kg 1100

2 Ch heifers 497kg 1080

1 Lm heifer 445kg 1090

1 Hr cow 835kg 1480

1 Fr cow 685kg 1370

Now I don’t know if the money was coming from the off-farm income, the milk cheque, or even from under the mattress, all I do know is that in Macroom on Saturday there was plenty of it slushing around the mart.

Macroom mart, one of the best marts in the country if you are in search of a nice strong beefy store animal, had plenty on offer on Saturday.

All you needed was the money. A sale of big cattle with big bids. In Macroom, dry cows sold from €70 to €670 over the kilo. Continental bullocks made from €335 to €795 over the kilo.

Hereford and Aberdeen Angus bullocks sold from €270 to €755 over their weight. Friesian bullocks sold from €195 to €580 with the kilo. Heifers sold from €265 to €730 over their weight.

Macroom

Saturday

No Breed Sex Weight €

6 AA steers 545kg 1255

4 Lm steers 605kg 1400

1 BB heifer 590kg 1310

1 Lm heifer 495kg 1190

1 AA cow 870kg 1540

1 Lm cow 745kg 1200

1 Fr cow 750kg 1080

Cattle prices were up in Kanturk on Tuesday, mart manager Seamus O’Keeffe had all the details. “We had a very busy day here on Tuesday with 1834 animals, including 1031 calves, on offer.

“There was an improved trade with prices up at least €50 per head on last week’s sale. This was due to a great demand for cattle for grass. We had 186 buyers from across the country present at the sale,” said Seamus.

“Our special sale of breeding heifers and all breed bull sale takes place on Saturday, April 8.”

Kanturk

Tuesday

No Breed Sex Weight €

1 H steer 685kg 1345

3 Fr steers 610kg 1020

10 AA steers 450kg 965

1 Hr heifer 715kg 1250

1 Sim heifer 540kg 1220

1 Fr cow 790kg 1210

1 Fr cow 695kg 910

In Skibbereen mart last Friday, dry cows sold up to €620 with the kilo. Aberdeen Angus and Hereford bullocks sold from €400 to €700 with the weight. Continental bullocks sold up to €800 with the kilo.

Friesian bullocks in Skibbereen sold up to €500 with the kilo. In Skibbereen weanling bulls made from €350 to €600 with the kilo.

Skibbereen

Friday

No Breed Sex Weight €

3 Lm steers 493kg 1165

2 Ch steers 400kg 1070

2 Hr heifers 552kg 1180

4 AA heifers 473kg 1160

1 AA cow 840kg 1460

1 Lm cow 690kg 1230

1 Fr cow 655kg 970

Kilmallock on Monday had an impressive number of cattle on offer. The Co Limerick mart had 2,400 cattle and calves on offer (1,050 calves). Denis Kirby of GVM reported a “very lively trade.”

Bullocks sold for up to €2.60 per kg. Weanlings hit €3.16 per kg. Dry cows (Kilmallock had 200 on offer) sold for up to €1.92 per kg.

Heifers hit €2.87 per kg. Dairy stock hit a price high of €1,450 (which was paid for a two-year-old in-calf heifer) while in the suckler ring a four-year-old Charolais and her Charolais heifer calf sold for €1,880.

This Saturday, an Angus bull sale takes place in Kilmallock. This sale will have 41 top class bulls on offer. From next Monday, April 3, the dry cow sale will start at 10am.

Kilmallock

Monday

No Breed Sex Weight €

1 Ch steer 395kg 915

2 BB steers 393kg 900

9 AA steers 350kg 820

1 Ch heifer 490kg 1150

1 Lm heifer 480kg 1100

1 Fr cow 480kg 920

1 BB cow 595kg 1000

In Dungarvan on Monday Friesian bull calves made €70 to €140 a head. Hereford bull calves made up to €300, with €330 a head being paid for the quality continental heifer calf.

Dungarvan

Monday

No Breed Sex Weight €

7 Ch steers 437kg 1130

5 Hr steers 582kg 1280

4 Lm steers 493kg 1155

1 Ch heifer 625kg 1225

4 Hr heifers 503kg 1100

1 Lm cow 745kg 1130

1 Fr cow 700kg 1050

Corrin also saw a big entry on Tuesday. The Fermoy venue had a cool 2,000 head on offer, with the trade anything but cool. Mart manager Sean Leahy said that the improved bullock trade from last week was maintained with dry cows and heifers also in “excellent demand”.

In Corrin, store bullocks made from €150 to €580 with their weight, with beef bullocks making up to €800 with the kilo. Heifers sold from €230 to €600 with the weight, with butcher types making up to a mighty €1,080 with the kilo. This sum was paid for a Charolais heifer weighing 750kg and making a head turning €1,830.

Corrin

Tuesday

No Breed Sex Weight €

1 Ch steer 690kg 1480

3 Lm steers 400kg 1135

2 Fr steers 497kg 950

6 Ch heifers 375kg 965

3 Hr heifers 498kg 1020

1 BB cow 775kg 1340

1 Fr cow 765kg 127

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