Beef: Pendulum swings back as buyers get active


Stock Photo: Roger Jones.
Stock Photo: Roger Jones.
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

I reported last week that the trade for both bullocks and heifers had taken a dip in price the previous week as buyers eased back due to either being fully stocked or short of space to accommodate further purchases.

Looking at the ringside tables below - for last week's trade - you can see that the price pendulum has swung back the other way, with buyers once again active.

The driver is the fact that over the last two weeks many areas have seen an almost perfect weather balance for the end of May: a warm sunny week followed by a few days of rain followed by another sunny spell, ideal conditions to get silage cut, fertiliser spread and slurry out.

For the cattleman those cut silage fields represented a release of pressure on the early spring grazing block as stock were released to mop up the headlands. At the same time that newly created space had some farmers returning to the marts last week with calculations done on how many cattle they now needed to keep this extra area under control.

Factor in the reality that beef price increases for steers, heifers and cows are now also beginning to seriously work their way back into the mart system and the outlook for mart prices is stable to improving in the shorter term at least.

Another aspect of last week's trade was the fact some marts reported sellers, particularly if their stock were of better quality, refusing prices as they realised that with silage cut they too had additional options.

Put simply, everything above 400kg, with the exception of the top quarter of the 500-599kg section in the bullocks, rose last week, while those lighter cattle below 400kg suffered from what one mart manager described as "some men being a bit light on firepower when buying those lighter stores".

Those lighter stores in the 300-399kg section fell on average last week by 2c/kg or from €6-8/hd as a result, while the poorer-quality animal at this weight was hit with a 7c/kg average fall or €21-28/hd as buyers favoured the heavier, shorter keep animal.

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Above this weight the mood is all positive. The 400-499kg bullock was up 6c/kg on average or €24-30/hd, while the 500-599kg bullock's average remained steady at €2.11/kg, despite the better bullock at this weight dropping 5c/kg or €25-30/hd. The 600kg+ bullock continued the good news gaining 2c/kg on average while the better bullock at this weight put on 3c/kg or a minimum of €18/hd.

The heifer also had a good week, with averages in the various weight divisions either staying static as in the case of the 350-399kg section or showing a modest increase, as in the case of both the 400-499kg and 500-599kg sections, of 2c/kg which is a cumulative rise of €8-12/hd, while the 600kg+ heifers overall average rose 4c/kg or €24/hd.

The bottom quarter of the 600kg+ heifer table also shows the biggest movement in any of the bullock or heifer sections, up 20c/kg to €2.09/kg. Looking at that 600kg+ bottom quarter heifer, she has risen from a value of €1.55/kg or €930/hd three weeks ago to €1,254/hd last week. Nice work if you can get it.

Marts Roundup


Prices held firm, with forward stores and cull cows in strong demand, while the weanling trade continued to push forward on the back of both export and farmer demand. In the bullock ring nothing much at the top end slipped below €2.40 for forward continentals, with a 550kg Limousin making €2.43; €2.65/kg bought his 470kg comrade. Closer to the hook, a 635kg Angus made €2.10/kg with a 710kg Angus also clocking €2.10/kg. The weanling trade saw both farmer and exporter competition with some choice prices achieved: a 270kg Charolais hit €3.33/kg while a 415kg Limousin made €2.59/kg.


John O’Hanlon reckons his trade was “a little easier” but also noted that numbers are staying “steady” — 2016-born bullocks typically made from €2.50-2.80/kg, with a 465kg Charolais topping the tree at €3.25/kg. The heavier ‘short keep bullock’ was steady at €1.94-2.45/kg with the top grades making up to €2.52/kg. Store heifers saw their prices typically range from €2.30-2.70/kg with their top price being €2.81/kg as paid for a 355kg Charolais. Weanling bulls up to 300kg averaged €2.70/kg, with the 300-500kg category topping out at €2.75/kg.


Demand for cows suitable for finishing was strong, with a 566kg Limousin making €2.29/kg and a 529kg Charolais making €2.21, while €1.70/kg bought a 653kg Friesian. Among the heifers two red Limousins, one at 301kg the other 322kg, made €2.57 and 2.62/kg respectively, while the hammer fell for a 463/kg Charolais at €2.27/kg. The bull weanling trade saw continental types make from €2.73/kg back to €2.28/kg, with shippers for Turkey active. A selection of O and P-type Friesian bullocks also got on well, weighting from 450-481kgs they made from €1.71-1.87/kg.


Trade for cows was strong with prices averaging €1,130/hd to a top of €1,745. The bullock trade saw a top price of €2.91/kg paid for a 395kg Aberdeen Angus, while the overall average price of €2.30/kg was more typically in the heavier weights as illustrated by a 660kg Charolais who made €2.30/kg and a 645kg Angus who made €2.32/kg. In the heifer ring, prices averaged €2.35/kg with the top price of €2.88/kg achieved by a 305kg Charolais.


The recent rains were reckoned to have helped the trade as farmers judged potential grass growth as a result. Heavy bullocks sold from €2.00-2.40/kg with the forward store selling from €2.10-2.75/kg while lighter continental stores sold from €2.25-2.85/kg. Store heifers made from €2.20-2.85/kg with beefier types making from €2.15-2.85/kg. The weanling market saw bulls range from €2.20-3.05/kg with heifers €2.30-3.20/kg. Dry cows made sold from €1.45-2.15/kg


There was a good entry of stock, with trade “excellent” across the board with even the plainer types seeing brisk bidding. Bullocks sold from €2.20-2.70/kg while bulls hit a top of €2.80/kg off a base of €2.20/kg. Heifers made from €2.10-2.80, and the range in prices for cull cows was €600-1,520/hd.


Store bullocks up to 400kgs averaged €2.76/kg with a top price of €2.91/kg paid for a 395kg April 2016-born Charolais. In the 400-500kg section prices averaged €2.31/ kg with the top price €2.81/kg for a 495kg Belgian Blue. Over 500kgs trade was equally strong as the potential of the shorter keep quality animal drove the average price to €2.28/kg with a top price of €2.73/kg paid for a 640kg April 2015-born Charolais.

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