The simple message from the marts last week was “keep them coming” as yet again prices performed well.
Improving factory demand is driving the lift in the mart trade, with base prices last week reported to be in the region of €3.65-3.70/kg and more on occasion.
It’s the guarantee that the factories are willing to give on prices at the bottom of the scale that are the real indicators of how badly the processors want stock.
When you have factories guaranteeing men with Friesian bullocks that none of their stock will fall below say €3.40-3.50/kg, you know there is a real want. And that factory want is putting confidence into the mart trade.
Last week saw your 600kg+ bullock advance another 7c/kg to €1.94/kg overall. And there is a 75c/kg gap between the better animal at this weight and its poorer counterpart: €2.20/kg versus €1.45/kg.
The gap in prices between the top and the bottom in the 500-599kg bullock section was just as spectacular. Despite the overall average advancing 18c/kg to €2.03/kg, the lesser-quality animal fell further behind his better-made cousin as the average price gap opened to 77c/kg — €1.62 for the bottom quarter compared to €2.39/kg for your top-end animal.
In the 400-499kg section, bullock prices moved up 6c/kg to €2.04/kg, while in the 300-399kg section the overall average was an even €2/kg.
This is where it gets interesting. Perception of demand and the confidence that brings is what drives any trading market, whether it’s silicon chips or cattle. If there’s a belief that something may be wanted or could go into short supply, markets buy into that and its price rises. Right now that is the case.
Go back 12 months and you find factory quotes for cattle were exactly what they are now, yet mart averages for bullocks were below where they are now.
The reason had as much to do with perception and negative messages about the possible impact of Brexit as anything else.
Brexit, which still looms down the road this year, had cut the confidence out from under the trade as all the talk was about tariffs and the possible difficulties in getting product to markets, not only in the UK but the continent as well.
Despite not having crossed that Brexit Bridge, the cattle trade is performing above expectations as the Covid crisis appears to have reintroduced consumers everywhere to the pleasures of a balanced red-meat diet.
The other point is that the Covid crisis has limited the opportunity for the media to overcook the effects of Brexit. And if it’s not constantly in your ear you won’t be worrying about it.
Jim Bushe reported a lively trade across all classes, with beef bullocks making €650-1,010 with the €1/kg.
On the store side, continentals sold for €455-820 with the €1/kg, while Hereford and Angus stores averaged €370-555 with the weight.
Among the Friesians, heavier types sold for €385-615 over their weight, with lighter lots making €225-425 with the €1/kg.
Beef heifers made from €585-1,000 over the €1/kg, with continental stores making €445-705 over their weight.
Hereford and Angus store heifers sold from €330-500 over the €1/kg.
Sean Ryan continues to see plenty of demand, with Hereford and Angus bullocks selling from €1.97-2.16/kg.
Among the continentals three 390kg Limousins topped out at €2.47/kg.
Other prices among the continentals included 575kgs that sold for €2.22/kg, with 465kgs making €2.40/kg.
Continental heifer prices varied from €2.05/kg to €2.30/kg.
Looking at the cull cow trade, the best of the coloured types sold to a top of €1.87/kg, with better Friesians making around €1.40/kg.
Kevin Murphy pointed out that despite suckler farming being assailed from all sides over the last number of years, there is still very strong demand for good quality suckler stock.
A special sale of 22 Simmental cows in calf to a Simmental bull saw prices average €1,350-1,950/hd, while a number of sucklers with Limousin calves at foot sold from €1,440-1,800/hd.
Numbers were not all out as strong as recently — this was probably a factor in pushing overall average prices upwards.
Heavy bullocks sold from €1.90-2.30/kg, with forward stores making €2.00-2.70/kg, while lighter stores made €2.10-3.05/kg.
On the heifer side beef sold from €2.00-2.65/kg, with stores making €2.10-3.00/kg.
Weanling bulls made €2.10-2.85/kg, with weanling heifers averaging €2.20-3.00/kg. Cull cows sold from €1.20-1.85/kg.
“It was hot,” said Maurice Brosnan of his sale, it’s easy to see why when you have the likes of ten 607kg Angus bullocks averaging €1,350/hd.
Other standout prices among heavy bullocks and heifers included a 700kg Limousin bullock at €1,600, while a 735kg Limousin heifer averaged €1,770/kg.
In short the trade here was driven from the top down, with those strong factory prices seeping into the store trade.
Samples included three 406kg Limousin cross heifers that averaged €1,030/hd, while two 567kg Charolais made €1,390/hd. Among the lighter bullocks were two 407kg Limousins that sold for €1,010/hd and a 480kg Angus who made €1,040.
There was another strong entry of stock here, with strong demand pushing the clearance rate close to 100pc.
In general quality lots sold from €2.30-2.80/kg, with plainer sorts averaging €1.80-2.20/kg.
Your better bull over 600kg sold from €705-840 over the €1/kg, with beef bullocks making €580-705 over their weight. Store bullocks sold from €350-730 over the €1/kg.
Beef heifers made from €500-905 over the weight with store heifers seeing prices from €350-610 over the €1/kg.
A surprisingly large turnout for the time of year saw plenty of buyer activity here both ringside and online.
Sample prices among the heifers included a 345kg Charolais cross at €2.71/kg, a 470kg Limousin at €2.26/kg and a 485kg Angus heifer at €1,000 or €2.06/kg.
On the bullock side, choices included two 505kg Angus at €2.16/kg, a 485kg Charolais at €2.31/kg or a 370kg Limousin cross at €2.54/kg.
Best price of the day among the bull weanlings saw a 290kg Charolais making €820 or €2.23/kg.