GALLERY: A week can be a long time in the beef game
Pictures and prices from Castlerea Mart
A week is a long time in the cattle trade.
Last week on these pages Patsy Smith of Dowra mart expressed the opinion that the mart trade had hit a sort of "in between time" as mart prices steadied and in places declined.
Since then we've all had a proper taste of what Moscow must be like when it snows.
Prior to last Wednesday, however, the majority of business proceeded as normal and that included livestock marts.
This week's ringside tables while denuded of figures from Thursday on still gives a very accurate picture of how the trade adapted to reduced numbers due to sellers choosing not to venture out in the week of the big snow.
The price fall of two weeks ago, was replaced last week by a market dominated by reduced stock numbers especially in the bullock section.
There was a resultant price recovery in the bullock table and to a lesser extent in the heifer table.
Looking in detail at the bullock table the first thing you notice is that the lighter 300-399kg steer appeared to have a poor week falling on average by 11c/kg or from €33-44/hd.
I'm not going to offer any fancy explanation as to why that happened in the 300-399kg section especially as everything else on the bullock table went up, except to say that those with money to spend may have decided that at a time of high weather drama, long kept stock might not be the way to go.
All that will change in a few weeks though when Patsy Smith's grass men get into their stride.
Above the 300-399kg section, price rises ranged from a meagre 1c/kg increase in the price of the top quarter of the 400-499kg division to an 11c/kg in the bottom quarter of that same 400-499kg section.
Overall averages however saw the price of that 400-499kg bullock increase by 8c/kg to €2.20/kg which meant your cheque going across the counter went up by between €32-40/hd as averages here settled between €880-1,100/hd.
The 500-599kg bullock saw his price rise on average by a modest 2c/kg to €2.12/kg giving an overall average price range of €1,060-1,270/hd.
Moving into the 600kg+ category prices rose 7c/kg to €2.15/kg last week which is a €42/hd increase and leaves your heavier bullock costing a minimum of €1,290/hd.
Weather and associated problems aside, one mart manager I spoke to recently advanced the theory that the change in farming practices in the dairy sector to a complete "milk and nothing but milk" philosophy poses at least as big a challenge as falling suckler numbers for those wishing to buy a traditional, quality Friesian bullock for summer grazing.
It's a very interesting point. Are we at a time where more extensive cull cow and Jersey beef fattening may be the only options for some?
Numbers of calves swelled here last week but prices were maintained. Continental bulls made up to €500/hd with continental heifers selling from €320-470/hd. Hereford and Angus bulls made from €170-380/hd, while Hereford
and Angus heifers made from €160-330/hd.
Among the younger Friesian bulls, prices generally ran from €30-60/hd while the older stronger type sold from €70-150/hd. In the weanling section, trade for bulls was strong with a batch of five 249kg Charolais bulls posting an impressive €3.23/kg among the top performers.
Trade for the better conformation weanling was equally brisk here with a good entry seeing prices for bulls range from €2.10-2.80/kg. Heifer weanlings sold from €2.20-2.80/kg. The only proviso was that anything plainer in either bulls or heifers were “difficult to sell”.
Noel Corcoran noted that in the absence of many farmer buyers, calf shippers picked up the slack, but at a price. Friesian bulls for shipping sold from €55-110/hd with Aberdeen Angus bulls topping out at €230/hd, while heifers sold from €120-200/hd.
Among the more mature stock were Hereford X and Angus heifers from 467-530kg who sold from €2.00-2.09/kg. In the bullock section momentum was maintained with one batch of 465kg Angus selling for €2.19/kg, while a 625kg Hereford saw the hammer at €2.04/kg.
Reduced numbers due to the severe weather resulted in increased prices here. Among the top prices in the heifer ring was a 545kg Limousin X who went over the line at €2.32/kg, a 435kg Aberdeen Angus at €2.64/kg and a 315kg Charolais at €2.78/kg.
Among the bullocks were a 555kg Belgian Blue who clicked €2.30/kg and three 430kg Angus who made €2.62/kg.
In the weanling section best bull price
was the €3.40/kg paid for a 275kg Charolais with two 255kg Charolais heifers breaking the tape at €3.24/kg.
Although numbers were small here as farmers possibly decided to tread cautiously and prepare their farms for the impeding snow, those who ventured out with stock to sell “didn’t fair too badly” according to Michael Harty. Nice continental heifers from 330-370 kg made from €2.57-2.72/kg.
The cull cow trade saw the more storish 500-550kg Friesian make up around €700/hd, while one 700kg Friesian, her days of filling the bulk tank over, had one last pay check left in her for her dairy farmer owner, €1,000 as the hammer fell.
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