Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Age and movement rules hit cattle trade

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

The negative effect that age profiling and the four movements rule are having on trade is plain to be seen at marts this week.

Despite the fact that farmers, mart managers and factory agents, agree that both the four-movement rule, and the restricting of quality payments to under 30-month cattle, are ludicrous rules, everyone appears powerless to affect change.

Both of these rules fly in the face of traditions of cattle rearing in this country. I estimate it has cost farmers, be it primary producer or fattener, tens of millions of euros.

This week’s mini mart report contains references to the suppression of mart prices by these artificially created barriers. In general last week’s trade showed that activity in the mid weight divisions, 400-499kgs and 500-599kgs, in both the bullock and heifer sections, is buttressed by opposite movements in the lower and higher weight divisions.

In short, while those mid weight bullocks were losing from 1-2c/kg or €4-8/hd the lighter 300-399kg animal rose 2c/kg while the heavier 600kg+ animal remains exactly as he was last week on an average of €1.87/kg or a minimum of €1,112/hd.

However the top quarter rose 2c/kg to sit on an average of €2.12/kg or €1,272/hd. Recently, it was surprising to see heavier bullock effectively treading water at a time when beef prices are tending upwards, they have over the last three weeks risen anything from 10-20c/ kg.However, ringside figures for last week show no movement in the averages.

Effects of ringside price cuts for the heavier bullock with issues in relation to movement or age is preventing his overall average from moving upwards. Mart managers shared this view when pointing out that in spec 600kg+ is in demand, but there just aren’t enough of them around to tip the balance.

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The fall off in numbers and the resultant fall off in quality is also having an impact. Meanwhile, the heavy heifer was also down last week by 3c/kg or a minimum of €18/hd which means her two week combined decline has been 4c/ kg or €24/kg.

Last week’s weanling trade reflects the reality of removing the shipping equation from the bull weanling ring.

The lack of shipping in the 100-299kg section resulted in an average fall of 20c/kg or from €20-60/ hd, while uncertainty for the beef business going into 2017 sees the heavier 400- 600kg bull fall by 18c/kg or from €72 84/hd as winter finishers pulled in their horns.

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