Strong farmer demand driving early calf sales
Lively demand and fine prices are reported in early calf sales, despite growing fears that a combination of restricted lairage capacity and shipping schedules could seriously hit the live export trade this spring.
Strong farmer buying has underpinned the trade over the last fortnight, but a marked price divide has opened up between calves that are four and five weeks old, and younger stock.
Jim Bushe of New Ross Mart said there was "very good demand" for the 490 calves on offer at the Co Wexford sale on Saturday, with farmers taking the older and dearer animals and the exporters buying the plainer and younger stock.
Farmers were looking for good older Friesians and quality continental crosses, with continental bulls generally selling from €300/hd to €400/hd. A top price of €485 was paid for a Belgian Blue bull. Older Friesian bulls ranged from €130/hd to €195/hd, with farmers doing all the buying for these.
The majority of Angus and Hereford bulls sold for €150-270/hd, with good quality Herefords making up to €350/hd.
Shippers bought around 200 calves, paying between €50 and €130 for Friesian bulls, with the weaker prices paid for those younger calves. Angus heifers were also in demand for export, with €150-240/hd paid.
Meanwhile, just €10-30/hd was paid for the small number of Jersey bulls on offer, and Mr Bushe expressed concern that there would be far fewer takers for these animals as the numbers increased.
A two-tier market was also reported in Bandon Mart, with Tom McCarthy reporting "good calves did well but the lighter ones were under pressure".