EXCEPTIONAL grass growth and the imminent arrival of some €600m in single farm payments are driving strong demand for light weanlings nationwide.
Advance payments of 50pc of the country's €1.2bn are due to flow into farmers' accounts from tomorrow but many cattle men have already spent their budget on weanlings.
Mart managers report that the strongest weanling trade is for 'farmer-type' weanlings of 320-380kg, while the demand for shipping-type weanlings lags behind.
Top prices of up to €4.08/kg were paid for bulls under 350kg at Dowra mart, while heifers under 350kg made up to €3.80/kg.
"After a disastrous spring, there's plenty of fodder around now and in my opinion, there's a bit more confidence in the country in general," remarked Ballinrobe mart manager Tom Maguire. "Weanlings for feeding were very dear in our mart this week, while the demand for the shipping calf was not quite the same."
Continental bull calves of 320-330kg sold at Ballinrobe sold for €1,000/hd, while heifers of the same weight sold for up to €850/hd. Heavier shipping type bulls of 400kg sold for €1,050-1,100/hd.
Mr Maguire said the strong farmer demand was a result of "the combination of the fantastic weather and the single farm payment."
His comments were echoed by Ennis mart manager Martin McNamara who said farmers were clamouring for good Charolais calves of 320-380kg.
"There is grass there to be eaten and the surplus of dairy type animals around is making a good quality weanling scarce," he added.
"The real top Charolais calf made up to and, in some cases, more than €3/kg," said Mr McNamara.
Top Belgian Blue calves for shipping made €2.80-3.20/kg, while lesser quality animals for the Libyan market sold for €2.20/kg on average.
Lighter weanlings also out-sold their heavier counterparts in Kilkenny, where weanlings of 350-400kg averaged €2.61/kg and heavier bulls made €2.25-2.40/kg.
Good quality heifers sold for €2.10-2.60/kg but lighter and plainer heifers were knocked down at €1.60-1.70/kg.
Grass growth rates are more than double what would be expected for this time of year, according to Vincen Griffiths of Teagasc.
"Grass growth has averaged around 60kg DM/ha/day over the last two weeks, which is exceptional for this time of year, " said Mr Griffiths. In recent years, growth rates on the Teagasc Curtins farm for the second week in October averaged only 35kgDM/ha per day.
Demand from the east coast and Northern Ireland boosted prices at Ballymote mart on Friday.
Light bull weanlings under 300kg sold for €300-635 over the weight, while bulls of 300-400kg sold for €350-800 over. Heavier bulls over 400kg made up to €880 over.
The lightest weanling heifers made €280-585 over the weight, while 300-400kg lots made €400-830 over and those over 400kg sold for up to €575 over.
Light weanling bulls at Castlerea mart sold for €3.25-3.40/kg, while heavier bulls around 400kg sold for €2.65-2.80/kg.
Heifer weanlings ranged from €2.82/kg to €3.70/kg, depending on quality.