Strong trading for weanlings reflects scarcity

All marts report improved prices this week on the back of a flush of grass growth.

One mart man told me, “Farmers are back to throwing their cheque books into the ring.” Another said, “They bet the lard out of one another (price wise) to get stock.”

Starting in Kilmallock, where Denis Kirby told me that there was a big improvement in prices. “Cattle were up €20 to €100 with us on Monday. Bullocks especially were up.” Buyers for bigger numbers were also back. “We had several men who bought full loads. One man bought over 50 bullocks.”

Denis reckons these are men who have killed stock recently and now that the grass is coming strong, are keen to get back into numbers. However the men buying the handy numbers were still “very evident”. While the heavy hitters, number wise, can underpin a sale to some degree, it is the men going home with the four, five or six that are the bread and butter of the trade.

Calves went very well, Denis said, helped by Northern buyers arriving in Kilmallock on Monday for the first time this year. “Anything they bought went straight out the gate Monday evening,” he said. Cull cows too were also in strong demand, with the majority bought by feeders and going straight back out to grass, said Denis.

Also on Monday, Bandon saw a very good trade, according to manager Tom McCarthy.

An unusual aspect of this particular sale was the number of two year old stock present. “We had more two year old cattle on Monday than the two previous weeks combined,” he said.

Although the cull cow price is reported as coming under pressure in the factories, Tom said, “It wasn’t reflected in Monday’s sale here”.

The top example was a Friesian which weighed 910kg (that’s some cow!), making €1,590. Dairy cows made from €1,100 to €1,400 — “very respectable for this day of the year“, commented Tom. Heifers also saw a substantial price lift. As in Kilmallock, Tom felt it was the grass growth that brought extra men ringside, and they pushed on the prices, resulting in Bandon achieving an almost complete clearance.

Moving to Tuesday and Fermoy/Corrin, Sean Leahy tells me that they too saw extra buyers, but that they also had a good turn out of stock, “for the day of the year”.

The trade he said was “very lively, with prices up anything from €40 to €50 a head.”

He also commented, “Cattle are looking better after the week of good weather.”

It’s a simple thing but an animal with a shine in his coat always looks more attractive than the animal that’s seen a couple of day’s hard wet weather.

Similar to Bandon, the heifer trade was stronger than previously despite only limited numbers present. “Classy coloured heifers in particular were very strong,” he said.

Cull cows too were well in there price wise, with one man taking home an average of €1,103 euro each for his six Friesians who averaged 660kg. No different to any where else, Sean said “Grass is what’s driving the trade and more farmer buyers are out as a result”.

Meanwhile, in Nenagh also on Tuesday of this week, Michael Harty reported that just like many other marts, the good weather coupled with more grass brought them more buyers.

They had 400 cattle on offer, which included 50 dry cows “A good number for this day of the year.” he said.

A full clearance was achieved, with Michael also commenting, “Cattle are now weighing better and looking better”. The stand-out lot of the sale, he said, were five Simmental heifers who averaged 275 kg. “Two men with the same idea, breeding, got stuck into them.” They hammer eventually fell at €930!

Michael also manages Birr mart up the road in Co Offaly whose sale was the day before, Monday.

He said there were 250 cattle present, with a similar trade to Nenagh.

Across the river Shannon and on into Tuam, where Marion Devane said they had 400 animals on offer at their special weanling sale on Monday.

The numbers broke down as follows: 200 bull weanlings, 100 heifer weanling and 100 other cattle.

There was a strong attendance of shippers, as expected”.

Prices she said, “Did well, did very well.”

With excellent quality on show, the bulls made up to €1,245 with the weight, and heifers €805 with the weight. There was a brisk trade also for the other 100 animals present.

Monday last also saw the opening weanling sale of the season in Castleisland, with Richard Hartnett saying that they had an excellent selection of last autumn born calves, mainly Belgian Blues and Limousins, with smaller numbers of other breeds also. In relation to price, he said the bulls averaged 407 kg and made €1,140 on the round, with the heifers coming in at €2.93 a kilo.

As in Tuam, shippers were the main buyers.

Moving back to last weekend and Saturday’s sale in Sixmilebridge in Co Clare, Sean Ryan said it was, “A serious sale for weanling bulls and heifers, with very good demand from exporters.”

Sean expressed surprise at the number of weanlings around for the last week of May.

He commented, “Farmers must be moving to breeding the whole year round, given the fact we had a share of June and July born stock.”

A question he raised, and one that I suspect will get more of an airing as the summer slips on, is whether the trade will remain as buoyant as the back end approaches.

For the moment though, the trade has bounced back after three miserable weeks at the start of this month.

“Good heavy cattle” in Sixmilebridge made €800 with the weight on Saturday. Looking over the sheets this week, it’s very obvious that the trade for the quality weanling is reflective of the scarcity on the continent.

The trade for other cattle is underpinned to some degree by farmers wanting to keep grass under control.

However, with the cull cow price at the factory gate slipping this week, I wonder how long the mart trade might take to adjust, if that price pull isn’t just a temporary blip?


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