With considerable numbers of animals returned indoors in many areas, due to a combination of scarce grass and poor underfoot conditions, the mart trade has seen numbers reduced, as sellers concentrate on getting their farms realigned to overcome weather difficulties.
The same problems afflict many fatteners, however their numbers ringside seem less affected, judging by the comments of mart managers.
Starting in Corrin, Fermoy on Tuesday, where Sean Leahy reported a “good trade”, despite the fact a number of farmers who had stock booked in failing to arrive due to very bad weather.
Despite this, the trade was brisk, with heavy store types in particular “very much in demand”.
Sean cited the example of six Friesian bullocks which weighed 610kg, making €1,170.
Bulls, on the other hand, he felt, had eased back somewhat on recent weeks, with prices reduced by as much as €50 in certain cases.
An example of the price variation for Friesian bulls was the case of the man who sold a total of 32 animals in various lots which ranged in price from €1.80 to €2.15 a kilo.
Also noticeable was an increase in the number of smaller “handy 2011” type stock present, Sean said.
Moving into north Tipperary, and the sale in Nenagh, also on Tuesday last, Michael Harty commented, “Numbers have held up remarkably well for the time of year”.
Asked if the weather had dampened the trade, he responded, “It appears to have had very little effect really. We had a lot of men wanting to buy cattle today”.
However, similar to Fermoy, he said he saw a marked increase in the numbers of dry cows and yearlings turning out.
The cows in particular were up, with 60 present on Tuesday, and all sold.
He suspects that in the case of the cows and Friesian yearlings, it may well be a case of dairy farmers deciding to move them on to make more room for the “milkers”.
Prices varied, depending on breed and conformation.
Examples included one Friesian cow weighing 650kg making €1,090 while a red Limousin weighing 715kg, with better conformation, made €1,560.
Weight and conformation are usually the main dictators of price. However, the perceived ability of animal to hit the ground running, so to speak, as in the case of “outliers”, saw one “very good quality” outlying Hereford bullock weighing 510kg make €1,250.
Kilmallock on Monday saw 1,538 cattle and calves on offer, with Denis Kirby telling me that numbers were a little easier, but he expects more stock to come out once the weather settles.
As it was, he said the weather didn’t appear to be a factor for the buyers.
He said “Prices weren’t up, but weren’t back either.”
As in the case of Fermoy, factory cattle and heavier store types were “very much in demand.”
Calves also were “flying”, with plenty of buyers unfazed by the cold or wet.
Holstein-Friesian types suitable for shipping made from €170 to €200, with farmer buyers pushing on for the better types, between €400 and €580 for better white head bulls.
Heifers suitable for either feeding or breeding saw very keen competition, with suckler cows making upwards of €1,800 for the most suitable types.
Dairy cows too did well, with €1,470 being paid on occasion.
With 700 calves on show at Castleisland on Monday, Richard Hartnett noted that 41 were Limousin and 130 Belgian Blue.
This, he commented, represents a significant shift in breeding patterns, compared to when Limousins were the dominant breed.
However due to the preference of shippers for “Blues”, breeding of Limousins had declined, and Belgian Blues had increased.
Solid evidence that the Kerry farmer is adaptable, and knows where the money is. Another thing that has caught Richard Hartnett’s eye is the increase in the number of farmers buying Angus and Hereford bulls suitable for breeding.
“Prices for these animals are up €1,000 on 12 months ago,” he said.
Discussing the general trade in some detail, he commented that “short keep stock”, suitable for slaughter this year, have and will possibly continue to hold value well, while younger lighter animals may possibly be open to some slippage.
Swinging East next and the sale in Carlow, also on Monday, where Jimmy Walsh told me they had a sizeable sale with a very strong entry of calves.
Prices were not a “whole lot different” from the previous week.
However, the down turn in the weather, coupled with the shortage of grass, may yet cause problems for finishers, he believes.
He said, “The six most important weeks for thrive are from the start of May to the middle of June. Lose those weeks, and it’s very expensive to make them back.”
He said that better bullocks suitable for summer grazing were a very strong trade and that heavy cattle had risen on Monday.
He mentioned one man who last week sold a load of 600 to 650kg animals in the mart for an average of €2.32 a kilo, and show returned last Monday with another 14 very similar animals, to average €2.42 a kilo this time!
But it was the “taller, not overly well done, continentals, ready for grass, that men really want”.
Some of these would push close to €3 a kilo on the day.
Returning to Cork, and Macroom last Saturday. John O’Mahony said the trade is “holding”, despite the weather, and their numbers being back a little on the previous week.
The one exception was possibly the plainer Holstein-Friesian animal, which has eased a bit, he said.
What hadn’t eased was the number of buyers, with John reporting that midland men were again present.
Commenting on the calf trade, he said that the word coming from Holland is that “The Dutch like the Irish calves, because they appear to travel well, and also they appear to be healthier and stronger than their Dutch equivalents”.
On the day, Friesian bulls for shipping made up to €150 a head.
“Anything above that was generally bought by farmer buyers”.
In relation to criticism that the Cork Marts group was making it difficult for others to compete for calves for shipping, he said, “We’re buying to ship and without us competing for those calves, realistically, where do you think the price would be?”
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