The calf trade has “started more positively than expected”, according to mart managers around the country, with lighter calves making €20-€30/hd and stronger Friesian bulls making €90-€130/hd.
Three-week-old Friesian bulls in Kilkenny last week sold from €50-€80/hd, with lighter calves averaging €20-€30/hd. Stronger, four-week-old Friesian bulls sold from €90-€130/hd.
Numbers of Hereford and Angus were small last week, but mart managers are confident they will rise, according to Michael Lynch of Kilkenny Mart, who said he expects numbers “to more or less double every week” before hitting a peak in March/April.
Three-week-old Angus and Hereford bulls sold from €130-€200/hd, with the top specimens making €250/hd. Angus and Hereford heifers sold from €100-€150/hd, with stronger ones selling for up to €175/hd.
Macroom’s Gerry Sullivan said trade has been great, noting that well-cared-for Friesian bulls at four weeks are averaging around €110-€125/hd. By comparison, his two-week-old Friesians suitable for shipping sold from €25-€45/hd.
ICMSA Livestock Chairperson Des Morrison said calf prices are strong and there was a healthy demand for good month-old calves.
He noted that lighter calves are a more difficult trade and it might pay farmers to feed these for an extra week or two to make them more saleable.
The general consensus is that in dairy areas, numbers of Friesian bulls will again reduce this year, with a combination of sexed semen to guarantee the number of heifers produced and the continuing switch to Angus, Hereford and Belgian Blue.
However, this focus on breeding more heifers by the dairy sector has raised some concerns among shippers.
One shipping agent told the Farming Independent that Friesians would normally be shipped until June before a switch to Angus.
“That switch will be earlier this year because we believe the number of Friesian calves just won’t be there,” they said.
Despite this, the shipping trade has also got off to a good start, with trade to Spain, Holland, Portugal and Belgium “flying” since the start of February.
Shippers are reported to be giving from €20-€50/hd out of the yard for Friesian bulls two weeks and over, with Angus and Hereford bulls being bought at €70-150/hd.