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Friday 23 June 2017

Belgian blues top heifer prices at marts over the past 6 years

The supreme champion at the fatstock show & sale in Carnew Mart in 2015 a Belgian Blue heifer weighing 710 kilos sold for €3,000 is pictured with owner John Cullinane, Ballineen, Co Cork. Photo O'Gorman Photography.
The supreme champion at the fatstock show & sale in Carnew Mart in 2015 a Belgian Blue heifer weighing 710 kilos sold for €3,000 is pictured with owner John Cullinane, Ballineen, Co Cork. Photo O'Gorman Photography.
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

The Irish Independent receives data from marts on a daily basis. This data describes every animal put up for sale at these marts since November of 2011.

Our analysis focuses on animals sold between November of 2011 and November of 2016 to identify the average price per kilo and how it has evolved over this time period.

The study of heifer prices from late 2011 to 2016 showed that market outlook and confidence in the trade influenced cattle prices as much as factory quotes from finished stock.

While heifers can be divided at marts into those bought for breeding proposes as opposed to those bought for beef production, this study simply looked at the sale prices achieved.

It is worth noting that November 2016 and October 2012 were two of the weakest periods for heifer prices. In November 2016 mart prices for heifers averaged €1.96/ kg, while €1.97/kg was paid in October 2012.

The factory base price for heifers in October 2012 ranged from €3.85/kg to €3.90/kg, while factory prices for November 2016 went from €3.70- 3.80/kg. That’s a difference of 10-15c/kg or from €30-45/hd on a 300kg carcase, while the 1c/kg mart difference between the two periods equates to just €3-6/hd on a 300-600kg animal.

This suggests that an absence of farmer confidence rather than lower factory quotes had a more immediate impact on mart prices. However, a lift in factory quotes can influence farmer confidence, as was seen in the spring and early summer of 2015 when heifer prices hit their highest average at €2.42/ kg in July.

The improvement in prices started in April that year when €2.39/kg was paid for heifers, and was maintained in the €2.40/kg region until early August.

Factory price trends

The major underlying factor at that time appears to have been the steady rise of the then factory price from €3.80/kg to €4.00/kg.

The €2.42/kg paid in July 2015 is in stark contrast to the more recent low of €1.96/kg recorded in November 2016. But it is those two figures – €1.96/ kg and €2.42/kg – which mark the extent of the mart price spread of 46c/kg across the five years of this study.

However, this 46c/kg range shrinks by nearly 25pc to 37c/ kg when you eliminate those absolute extremes and replace them with the next lowest and highest average figures, €2.03/ kg in August 2014 and €2.40/ kg in June 2015. The tighter range in heifer prices, of either 37c/kg or 46c/ kg, contrasts with the 60c/ kg variation in steer prices.

The primary reason for the greater price range for steers is the large number of poorer quality Friesian bullocks from the dairy herd which skew the market averages. Moving to the specifics of how individual beef breeds performed over the five years, the first thing to notice is that while the Charolais was the runaway leader in the bullock price table, they come second in the heifer stakes at €2.50/kg.

The Belgian Blue had the highest average at €2.52/kg (July 2015). Limousins come in third at the €2.48/kg achieved in June 2015.

The Aberdeen Angus and Hereford breeds remain as they did in the bullock section with the Angus heifer just piping her Hereford sister by 1c/ kg on a top average of €2.25 kg versus €2.24/kg. Both breeds hit equal new low averages of €1.77/kg in November 2016.

Online Editors