The things I learned this week, while talking to mart managers and their staff.
* Calves are up in price all over, as are good dry cows.
* Heavy cattle and the 2010 forward stores are in “shocking short supply".
* And hurling thrives in areas that grow tillage!
What's a fact, however, is that the sale in Bandon last Monday had 450 cattle and 865 calves on offer. Mart manager Tom McCarthy described it as "A good sale for the time of year with more numbers than expected"
In relation to prices, he said "The trade held." But some buyers now seemed more quality and price aware. Overall, though, he said, "Any ground lost during the poor weather was recovered."
The result was a full clearance, with calves in particular up by as much as €30-40. Three week old Friesians suitable for the shipping trade made €160-180, with stronger calves off milk, two or three months old, liable to make anything up to €400.
Monday's sale also saw another 150 dry cows going under the hammer.
Tom commented that Bandon has seen a marked increase this year in the number of dry cows and factory cattle coming to their yard for sale.
Across the border in Kerry, Monday's sale in Tralee saw a reduced turnout, but with similar prices, according to mart manager Philip Healy. There was a full clearance and like in Bandon there was a "very strong demand for the forward cow.
He noted, "Plainer Friesian type cattle are now coming back in the money."
This is understandable because the year is pressing on, and those lighter type stock will possibly have to see grass next spring and maybe next summer too.
Although the simpler bullock was now approaching more manageable money to buy, Philip observed, "It's still a seller’s market, not a buyer’s. Not yet anyway."
It was at this point that our conversation for some reason got sidetracked onto matters GAA, with Philip mentioning the alleged connection between tillage and hurling.
He pointed out that the ground north of Tralee is relatively flat and suitable for tillage, and thus hurling flourishes, with five or six "really good” clubs.
It was a theory that I put to Mid Tipp's mart manager Martin Ryan.
"That,” he said, “is a commonly held belief west of the Shannon."
The Western men, according to Martin, rationalised that the strength of certain counties in hurling was down to the fact that “a young fellow going for the cows or to count the cattle could puck a ball in front of him and not lose it in the bushes on a hill".
Ringside in Thurles at Monday, Martin described the trade as "holding up," with bullocks and heifers a shade stronger than the last week and the poorer type Friesian bullocks holding their own. Cull cows on the other hand, he felt, had eased a bit due to the possibility that they were maybe not all as good — quality-wise — as previously.
As in Tralee, calves were a "serious trade."
Going through the sheets, he commented, "The lowest price paid was €210 for a Friesian bull calf three weeks old!"
Heifers were also very strong with one man taking home an average of €2.80 a kilo for his potentially U grade Piedmontese.
West of the Shannon, in the dual coded county of Galway, Marion Devane reported a smaller sale on Monday.
Marion said this may possibly be down to the fact that, next Monday, they have a U-grade weanling sale, with a good turn out of shippers expected."
Which or whether, the trade was excellent, with a full clearance achieved.
The trade for quality heavy cull cows was exceptional, with upwards of €1,000 paid with the weight by factory buyers.
Lighter cows, she said, were possibly bought by farmers who intend them as "short keep" animals, possibly for slaughter in a month or two.
In relation to the grass situation, Marion reckons, "It will be another week at least before it recovers fully."
She told me many of those animals that were forced back indoors in recent weeks are now back out, but farmers are still foddering them, as they nurse their supplies of grass.
Monday’s mart in Carlow also saw a smaller turn out, but year-on-year numbers for the end of May were unchanged.
The trade was solid, with even weanling bulls meeting a good demand.
What was noticeable was that the trade did not suffer in their absence of the men who buy the big numbers, and who are now probably full.
Their places taken by a good number of buyers needing smaller numbers to top up their quotas or replace animals recently slaughtered.
As in many parts of the country, grass continues to be scarce, but is recovering.
However, a shrewd observer pointed out that the trade in Carlow possibly hadn't suffered as badly as in other places due to the weather, because ground conditions had remained relatively solid in that part of the world.
And, a good share of cattle bought in Carlow travel north to the equally dry land of Kildare and Meath.
In Kilmallock last Monday, there was also no shortage of buyers.
Limerick, like a lot of the southern counties, has suffered badly because of the wet and the cold, with the mart trade affected because summers grazers eased off purchasing, and sellers also became cautious.
Denis Kirby had said last week he expected more stock to show if the weather improved.
And so it came to pass, with Kimallock's sale on Monday totalling 1,611 animals, among them 614 calves.
Denis said that they saw increased numbers of smaller, lighter cattle on Monday; however they also saw, just as in Carlow, increased numbers of buyers "topping up".
"The men buying the four or five balanced out the increased numbers" he said. Fatteners continued to mop up cull cows, as the number of suitable 2010 born bullocks continued to decline.
Denis also commented that most dairymen have now tumbled to the fact that, "Their cull cows are better off in the dry cow ring rather than the dairy ring."
In summary, the trade has steadied, and is beginning to improve as the weather settles.
However the question of who might lift the Liam McCarthy cup this year has me wondering, could Dublin win it if they grew barley in the Phoenix Park?
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