Cattle farmers worry about lots of things. What if it rains when I’m at the silage? What if it doesn’t rain when I’ve the slurry spread? What if the price in the factory falls? But as the weather improves and the days lengthen, there is really only one big question for the potential summer grazer: have I enough cattle for the grass when it comes?
Last week saw the summer grazing fraternity get serious at the marts about buying enough stock to graze the green stuff.
George Chandler in Kilkenny and Jim Bushe in New Ross were two of several mart managers who reported stronger demand plus higher prices. And while last week’s numbers didn’t break any records, they do appear to be growing.
Dowra mart manager Patsy Smith said last Saturday’s sale was the biggest he’d seen this early in the year for a long time. So in one sense last week was almost a perfect scenario — bigger numbers meeting increased demand.
The result is that average prices for bullocks are up about €30-50/hd on the previous week.
Weanling and bullock prices
Weanling bull prices jumped by up to €180/hd for the better 400-600kg animal. The overall average above 400kgs was up by between €50-120/hd, while lighter bull prices increased by €30-40/hd.
Looking in detail at the bullock figures, overall averages from 300-600kgs improved by between 9-13c/kg. Above 600kgs, the overall increase in prices was restricted to just 5c/kg.
Continental bullocks averaged from 7-19c/kg stronger under 600kgs, but above this added just 4c/kg to the price finishing the week on €2.24/kg.
Among the Friesians, last week’s surge was more muted as they only gained from 1-5c/kg in the 300-600kgs category.
Angus and Hereford bullocks improved by just 2-5c/kg above 400kgs ,while maintaining at an average of €2.10/kg from 300-400kgs.
However, several managers commented that the popularity of good Angus stock among finishers makes them much sought after.
Among the heifers, trade was a bit up and down.
In the 350-399kg section, prices averaged 7c/kg higher at €2.26/kg. From 400-600kgs, the averages either fell by 1-2c/kg or rose 1-3c/kg meaning that it was largely as you were.
In the 600kg+ division, however, overall prices fell back by 7c/kg to average €2.13/kg.
Finally, as the battle with Covid continues, many businesses are facing extra costs and the marts are no exception.
With extra personnel now employed to police Covid restrictions and extra office staff required to handle sales over the phone — plus the fact marts are currently shouldering the entire cost of the online service — several managers I spoke with suggested a review of their sales’ pricing structure may yet be necessary.
With plenty of farmer buyers online, trade here went very well.
Among the more noticeable prices was the €2.48-2.56/kg paid for a selection of 500kg red Limousin bullocks. And four 555kg Angus at €2.34/kg underlined the demand for that most marketable of breeds.
Prices for 700-800kg, good conformation cull cows peaked at €1.90-2.00/kg.
However, mart manager Sean Ryan questioned if increased costs and reduced factory returns will see some grass men cut back this spring.
Friesian calves suitable for shipping averaged from €50-75/hd while the stronger “farmer type” Friesian sold from €80-185/hd.
Among the Angus and Hereford bulls, prices ranged from €280-325/hd with Belgian Blues making from €330-440/hd.
Angus and Hereford heifers sold from €180-240/hd. In the yearling section Hereford bullocks sold from €2.15-2.30/kg with Angus and Hereford heifers making from €2.15-2.35/kg.
Numbers here rose again last week with dry cows improved, while the more fancy bull and heifer weanling also saw a lift.
Prices among those
top end bulls in the 300-400kg section ranged from €2.80-2.95/kg with better stock in the 400-500kg section averaging €2.50-2.80/kg.
Among the 400-500kg store heifers , prices ranged from €2.80-2.90/kg.
There was very strong competition for heavy stock with cull cows making up to €2.20/kg while some 550-670kg forward bullocks saw €2.50/kg
Numbers held firm last week and there was a sharper trade, especially for beef bullocks and heifers.
On the bullock side, 600kg+ steers sold from €1.80-2.41/kg with those in the 500-600kg division making from €1.80-2.51/kg. The 400-500kg bullock topped out at €2.40/kg.
Among the heifers beef sold from €1.90-2.40/kg with forward types averaging €1.90-2.40/kg while the lighter store heifer made from €2.00-2.41/kg.
There was a good entry here with online bidding reported to have been “brisk” for all lots presented.
Bullocks sold from €1.90-2.50/kg with bulls making from €1.80-2.50/kg.
Lighter lots made up to €3/kg.
Heifers averaged €1.90-2.60/kg with cull cows selling from €600-1,530/hd.
There was also keen interest for the Angus stock on offer with both bullocks and heifers selling from €1.80-2.20/kg.
The trade here remained very strong with the weanlings seeing a tops of €3.10/kg and €3.57/kg for bulls and heifers respectively.
Sample prices among the heavier bullocks included a 665kg Charolais at €2.27/kg, a 605kg Angus at €2.36/kg and a 705kg Charolais who made €2.18/kg.
Strong competition from feeders, factories and Northern buyers helped to push the trade on.
On the heifer side, a 460kg Limousin went for €2.50/kg, a 415kg Charolais for €2.63/kg and a 555kg Limousin that cracked on to an impressive €2.52/kg
Increased numbers saw beef and forward cattle better by €30-50/hd.
The nice continental store bullock and heifer was up better by €70/hd.
All this extra activity left beef bullocks averaging from €700—1,150/hd over the €/kg while beef heifers sold from €590—915/hd over the €/kg.
Continental store bullocks made from €520-890/hd over their weight.
Hereford and Angus stores sold from €350-600/hd over the €/kg.
Heavy Friesian bullocks made from €385-600/hd over the weight , with lighter lots averaging €220-385/hd over.