Marts: Prices improve - but don't gamble the Communion money just yet
Heifers continued to improve last week building on their steady performance of two weeks ago. Fourteen days ago the majority of heifers on our Ringside table saw small price improvements.
Last week, however, those "small price improvements" grew significantly.
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The 400-499kg heifer saw her overall price average increase by 5c/kg to €2.21/kg, with the better conformation animal in this section rising by 4c/kg to €2.52/kg. The average price of the 500-599kg heifer rose 8c/kg to €2.22/kg with the better here gaining 11c/kg to €2.49/kg. Among the heavy 600kg+ class the overall price average rose by 7c/kg to €2.16/kg.
The better heifer was once again the driver, here putting on 8c/kg to average €2.38/kg. In round figures from 400-600kg+ the gains averaged from €20-66/hd. The only negative among the heifers was that the 350-399kg heifer slipped 1c/kg to €2.20/kg.
Looking at the trade for bullocks, that slight slippage in prices from two weeks ago was replaced last week by a more positive tone as the majority of weight divisions made back those losses and then some.
The only exception was the animal under 400kgs who saw his overall average price fall by 6c/kg to €2.07/kg. Average prices rose by 3c/kg in the 400-499kg section, with the better conformation steer leading this recovery, gaining 4c/kg to €2.55/kg.
In the 500-599kg division overall average prices rose 2c/kg to €2.08/kg, while the 600kg+ bullock gained 3c/kg to €2.07c/kg. Significantly it was the poorer quality 600kg+ bullock who added most to that overall average as they gained 7c/kg to €1.76/kg. In round figures from 400-600kgs and over, bullock prices strengthened last week by between €12-42/hd.
Looking at that €42/hd gain among those lesser quality bullocks, one would be tempted to see it as a result of strengthening factory prices. Currently factory bullocks are working off a €3.90/kg base, with heifers at €4.00/kg. See my factory report for a detailed analysis.
There is still along way to go in 2019 but with factory numbers tightening and reports that Europe will see a decline in beef production of 1.3pc, is this the year short keep beef returns a handsome profit?
Mart numbers have begun to slip backwards as we head into May, which is traditional. However, other factors also appeared to impact attendances last week. Ger Sullivan, auctioneer with Macroom, noted a "few empty spaces ringside" as uncles, fathers and godfathers attended that very special family occasion, a first communion.
Indeed, I myself attended the first communion of one of my nieces last weekend. Having, I believe collected the price of a good 400kg Charolais bullock in gifts, the only question remaining is what she might do with this cash?
Reports indicate that investing in the cattle trade is very far down her current list of priorities.
In the know...
Beef and forward store bullocks sold from €650-980/hd over the €1/kg, with store bullocks making from €450-830 over their weight. Beef heifers made from €550-910 over the weight, with store heifers making €330-740 over. Demand for beef cows saw prices range from €320-680 over the €1/kg, with store cows selling from €100-370 over their weight. Weanling bulls made from €420-760 over the €1/kg.
Have some suckler farmers taken a step back in the quality stakes over the last year? John O'Hanlon thinks so. "Suckler farmers with jobs and reduced time seem to have opted for easier calving options. Meaning less losses but poorer quality [stock]," he maintained. That said, prices for 400-550kg bullocks still averaged €2.55kg, with a 475kg Charolais hitting the top price of €2.78/kg. Heifers from 300-400kgs averaged €2.48/kg, with heavier lots averaging €2.20/kg.
Auctioneer Gerard Sullivan reported a very lively trade for your better store bullock, as evidenced by sample prices. These included a 485kg Charolais at €2.56/kg, six 505kg Angus at €2.32/kg and three 325kg Herefords that sold for €2.48/kg. In general Ger reckoned your good Hereford or Angus bullocks were making from €2/kg and up.The cow trade was good for heavier types but Gerard rated the trade for parlour cows as tougher. He also reckoned that with Brexit kicked down the road, "we are seeing a more natural order returning to the trade".
Thomas Potterton also reckoned that with Brexit now on the back-burner farmers are more relaxed. "Men are in better form since Brexit got moved off the agenda," he said. Prices for bullocks from 350-450kgs ranged from €2.15-2.69/kg, with that top price going to a batch of 362kg Belgian Blues. It was a 520kg Limousin at €2.50/kg that took the top spot in the 500kg plus section, where prices worked off a base of €1.77/kg. The heifer trade has also cracked on well, with the 300-400kg division averaging from €2.10-2.75/kg.
"Trade was firm but the big rush is over," Michael Harty told me. Sample prices here on the bullock side included two 292kg Charolais that sold for €2.88/kg, with a further two Charolais that averaged 605kgs making €2.46/kg. The counter weight to the argument of quality over quantity came in the shape of 10 Friesians at 560kg that made €1.77/kg. The heifer trade was also excellent as shown by a string of Limousins from 318-425kgs that made €2.41-2.78/kg. Three 468kg Angus at €2.03/kg were probably not the dearest.
There was a good turnout here, with numbers of calves especially strong. Trade for both bull and heifer weanlings was very good, with the better 250-390kg Limousin, Charolais and Belgian Blue bulls selling from €2.80-3.30/kg. Among the 400kg+ bulls samples included two 402kg Limousins that sold for €2.63/kg, a 400kg Charolais at €2.67/kg, with four 540kg Angus making €1.85/kg. On weanling heifer side prices for the better Charolais and Limousin from 300-450kgs ranged from €2.40-3.10/kg. Looking at the calves, Friesians sold for €60-180/hd, with Herefords making up to €280/hd.
Spring was very much in the air here as prices continued thrive, especially for forward continental types. Angus and Hereford bullocks over 400kgs sold from €2/kg, with the better continental making €2.60-2.70/kg. Continentals under 400kgs generally made €2.40-2.80/kg, with fancier lots making up to €3/kg. Lighter store heifers sold for €2/kg for Hereford and Angus types, and to €2.60/kg for Limousins and Charolais. Continental bull weanlings made €2.40-2.70/kg, with some shipping types making up to €3.00/kg. Weanling heifers averaged €2.20-2.70/kg.
Standout sale €3/KG
Two 370kg Charolais heifers make €3/kg in Ennis
Standout sale €2.78/kg
A 475kg Charolais bullock sold for €2.78/kg in Ballymahaon
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