Bullock prices up as Continental shortage bites

Auctioneer George Candler pictured outside the Kilkenny Mart premises at Cillin Hill Photo: Roger Jones

Martin Ryan

A shortage of good Continental stock has seen the price of British Friesian bullocks increase by at least €120/hd over the last three months.

George Candler of Kilkenny Marts said the absence of Continental bullocks had resulted in an improved market for Hereford and Angus cattle, and British Friesian stock.

Mr Candler said good square Friesian bullocks were generally making €1.70-1.80/kg three months ago but were now tipping €2/kg.

This equates to an increase of around €120/hd on a 600kg animal.

The pre-Christmas surge in beef demand is continuing to underpin the cattle trade, with strong factory prices driving lively mart sales.

Tighter supplies in the sales rings has resulted in a stronger trade for plainer cattle, out-of-spec bullocks and heifers, and cows, as the factories and wholesale butchers seek to hoover up the available stock.

Factory buyers attributed the lively trade to the continuing strong demand for manufacturing beef. However, they claimed the market for high-value steak cuts remained slow.

A fall-off in the number of good-quality Continental bullocks in the marts has resulted in €2.50-2.60/kg being paid for any fancy lots that come into sales rings.

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David Quinn of Carnew Mart said competition between wholesalers, factories and beef finishers saw good-quality Hereford and Angus cattle sell for €1.90-2.15/kg.

Best return

However, the Carnew Mart manager claimed the best return for farmers was in selling 'out of spec' and over-age animals.

While the factories are generally paying €3.95-4.10/kg for bullocks and heifers, Mr Quinn said out-of-spec cattle could be discounted by 25-30c/kg if sold directly to slaughter plants.

But he maintained that competition at ringside for these cattle was delivering a definite bonus for the sellers.

The strong market for manufacturing beef has helped keep a floor on the cow trade this year, and a shortage of Continental fat cows has delivered a premium for any that come on the market.

Jim Bushe of New Ross Mart said the small numbers of finished Continental cows coming through the sales rings were making up to €2/kg. He said big numbers of dairy cull cows were still coming out, with 650kg animals making a base of €750.

Lighter 550kg cows were making around the €1/kg.

Meanwhile, the IFA's Angus Woods said the buoyant Irish cattle trade mirrored high prices in Britain and Europe.

Mr Woods said British prices are equivalent to €4.53./kg including VAT, at an exchange rate of 88p to the euro.

"Cattle prices in our main European export markets are up 30c to 40c/kg on last year's levels," he said.

"In France young bulls are making €4.20/kg including 5.4pc flat rate VAT.

"In Germany young bulls are at €4.35/kg, and in Italy young bulls have moved up to €4.46/kg."

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