Cattle marts report: Friesian bullock sold for €1,610 but suckler farmers concerned over autumn trade

So as we chalk down the first six months of 2016, how do we stand in the cattle business?

Not too good at all, I fear. Having spoken to two farmers over the weekend, both of whom had bought light cattle in 2015, the verdict from both was that there is no money in the beef business right now.

No money was made from cattle bought in 2015, with both farmers vowing not to return to the beef game. Both, like most beef farmers today, have other sources of income.

One had supplied the factory with bull beef, the other finished Angus bullocks.

I presume the meat industry would like us Irish farmers to continue supplying them with first-class produce, after all we have a product that is a world-beater.

Well if so, things have to change; the days of working for nothing are over.

A profit margin for the beef producer has always been tight, but this year it is non-existent.

Store cattle were €100 a head dearer this time last year, with the factory now getting away with offering a steer base price 40c/kg lower than this time last year. So where is the profit margin here?

Paying good money for store cattle in 2015 and receiving a paltry sum for finished beef in 2016 is a recipe for disaster. And that’s what is being served up to the beef farmer in the first six months of 2016.

The meat industry had better tune in to what is happening on the ground, or they will soon find finished cattle on Irish farms have become an endangered species. Diminishing returns will ultimately lead to diminishing numbers.

With my sermon over, and my scolding done for the week, we head to the marts.

Dungarvan first, and mart manger Ger Flynn who, unlike me, was in a positive frame of mind, giving this report after Monday’s sale.

“Cattle numbers here are holding well, with a good trade for lighter stores. We had an excellent heifer trade with dry cows holding steady also.”

Dungarvan

Monday

No Breed Sex Weight €

1 AA steer 825kg 1490

6 Ch steers 544kg 1205

4 Ch steers 455kg 1160

1 Hr heifer 645kg 1340

1 AA heifer 640kg 1275

1 Fr cow 740kg 1005

1 Fr cow 715kg 925

As usual, Macroom mart on Saturday had a nice number of quality stock on offer and at the head of the pack was a Friesian bullock who tipped the scales at 830kg and made a whopping €1,610.

This was certainly one of the biggest prices I had seen paid for a Friesian bullock in 2016, but of course there was more to this Friesian bullock than simply the headline-grabbing price.

For starters, while he was a Friesian according to the board, the eye told a different story (pictured, right).

In reality he looked more Belgian Blue. And aged four and a half, it was high time he appeared someplace for sale. Still, it was refreshing to see a Friesian bullock selling in the marts in 2016 for €780 with the weight, or €1.94/kg.

On Saturday in Macroom mart, dry cows sold from €65 under to €650 over the kilo. Continental bullocks sold from €270 to €700 over the kilo. Hereford and Aberdeen bullocks sold from €235 to €470 over their weight. Heifers in Macroom on Saturday sold from €245 to €580 over the kilo.

Macroom

Saturday

No Breed Sex Weight €

4 Ch steers 660kg 1360

1 Lm steer 475kg 1190

1 AA steer 405kg 860

3 Hr steers 340kg 760

1 Lm heifer 470kg 1050

2 Hr heifers 400kg 855

1 Sh cow 780kg 1430

And while the general trade for cattle in the marts this week might be continuing in a stable fashion, suckler farmers have started voicing concern about the weanling trade, as numbers start to appear at the marts.

One suckler farmer I met in the past few days had this to say: “€500 with the weight for a bull weanling is simply not enough. If you are looking for a drop in trade, you will see it in the suckler ring,” he said.

When you think that behind every suckler weanling stands a large suckler cow with a big mouth, €500 with the weight certainly does sound a little too close for comfort.

€500 with the weight gives a fellow very little room for error, it’s a bit like that film where Indiana Jones scrambles to grab his hat just before a heavy door slams down. So as the weanling sales start in earnest, we will be keeping a close eye on the action here.

In Bandon Mart on Monday, dry cows made from €25 under to €450 with the kilo.

Friesian bullocks in Bandon on Monday sold from €200 to €400 with their weight, while Aberdeen Angus and Hereford bullocks sold from €250 to €580 with the kilo. Heifers in Bandon on Monday made from €255 to €720 with the kilo.

Bandon

Monday

No Breed Sex Weight €

1 BB steer 620kg 1200

1 Ch steer 490kg 1135

2 Hr steers 480kg 950

1 Fr steer 455kg 800

5 Ch heifers 466kg 1040

1 Ch cow 750kg 1200

1 Fr cow 670kg 960

In Skibbereen on Friday, dry cows sold from €80 to €555 with the kilo. Friesian bullocks here made from €200 to €460 with their weight. Continental bullocks in Skibbereen sold from €280 to €645 with the kilo, while Hereford and Angus bullocks made from €230 to €450 with their weight.

Skibbereen

Friday

No Breed Sex Weight €

5 Lm steers 445kg 1080

1 Ch steer 330kg 910

2 AA steers 320kg 705

7 Hr steers 245kg 570

3 Lm steers 415kg 1060

1 Sh cow 780kg 1320

1 Ch cow 745kg 1300

Next up, we are turning our attention to Kanturk mart and to local mart manager, Seamus O’Keeffe, who gave us this report after Tuesday’s cattle sale.

“Tuesday saw a small sale of 320 animals including 105 calves here in Kanturk. Prices were the same as last week with Hereford bullocks weighing 650kg making €1,230, Friesian bullocks weighing 385kg making €700, while Aberdeen Angus bullocks weighing 412kg made €820.

“We had a good calf trade with Aberdeen Angus bulls making from €280 to €330 and Aberdeen Angus heifers selling from €220 to €290. Hereford bulls made up to €390 with Hereford heifers making up to €350.

“Our first autumn-born weanling show and sale is due to take place on July 26, with kind sponsorship by Boherbue Co-Op,” Seamus said.

“Also on July 26, there will be a free draw with cash prizes for all the buyers and sellers of calves in 2016. This draw is kindly sponsored by AIB Kanturk. Everyone is welcome.”

Kanturk

Tuesday

No Breed Sex Weight €

1 Fr steer 825kg 1500

6 Fr steers 610kg 1060

1 AA heifer 505kg 960

1 BB heifer 320kg 730

3 Hr heifers 368kg 705

1 Fr cow 825kg 1190

1 Fr cow 760kg 1070

Finally for this week, we turn to Kilmallock mart where Denis Kirby gave us this report. “We had 935 stock on offer, which included 350 calves, and again this week quality stock made premium prices with buyers from Northern Ireland present.”

In Kilmallock on Monday, bullocks made up to €2.40 per kg with heifers selling to a high of €2.68 per kg. Dry cows here made up to €1.99 per kg.

Kilmallock had buyers from as far away as Mayo in the dairy ring where calved stock hit a high of €1,150 (paid for a four-year-old calved cow). Suckler cows made up to €1,600 (paid for a nine-year-old Aberdeen Angus along with her Limousin bull calf).

“And as per normal here in Kilmallock,” Denis Kirby noted, “calf prices were on fire, with a five-week-old Limousin bull making €570.”

Kilmallock

Monday

No Breed Sex Weight €

2 Hr steers 320kg 700

4 AA steers 289kg 615

2 Ch steers 520kg 1000

2 Lm steers 568kg 1200

1 Hr heifer 495kg 980

3 AA heifers 473kg 945

1 Ch cow 475kg 700


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