Before receiving the ringside figures for last week, I had expected mart prices to show some signs of stability even allowing for recent wobbles in factory prices.
There was even the possibility that prices might strengthen as men with cattle killed hit a market place that should be running seasonally tight on forward stock.
However, looking at the ringside figures, the trade appears to be sluggish. That said, the numbers aren't really there yet to give a proper indication of what direction the trade is heading in.
There are some men anxious enough to replace stock but the combination of bad weather, falling factory prices, limited mart numbers and questions about how much fodder is about are all feeding into an air of uncertainty around the trade.
The bullock table, however, does show some touches of upward movement in about half the weight categories but all the heifer averages headed south last week.
The issue of a lack of numbers, I suspect, had possibly more to do with how the heifer performed last week than a sudden and chronic collapse in confidence.
Turning to the more numerous bullocks, we see that despite factories having squeezed beef prices by up to 10c/kg since Christmas, demand ringside for the 600kg+ bullock improved on average by 5c/kg last week to €2.08/kg while the top end bullock rose 8c/kg to average €2.39/kg.
The total span of price difference in the 600kg+ section is 80/ckg or a minimum of €480/hd - that being the difference between your better continental at €2.45/kg or €1,470/hd verses your poorer quality Friesian at €1.65/kg or €990/hd.
The difference in price from the very best to the very worst in the 500-599kg section is 83c/kg.
In the 400-499kg section it is €1.05c/kg or from €420-524/hd, while at the lightest end the 300-399kg animal sees a difference from top to bottom of 96c/kg which works out at between €288-383/hd.
I mention these figures now in the dark dull days of mid January because I intend to watch what happens the division in prices from the top to the bottom in the quality stakes once the spring trade proper gets under way.
There was a large entry of stock here despite or maybe because of the inclement weather. Trade was well maintained with heifers from 300-500kg selling from €1.80-3.00/kg. The price of the day among the heifers has to go to the 260kg Limousin who clicked €980 or €3.75/kg.
Among the weanling bulls, under 300kg prices ran from €2.00-3.40/kg with those from 300-400kg making from €1.80- 3.00/kg. In the heavier bull section strong demand saw prices hit a top of €2.90/kg. Heavy good conformation cull cows sold from €1.80-2.30/kg, with stores making from €1.00-1.80/kg.
While prices among heavier dry cows performed well, they tended to fall just that little bit short of the €2/kg mark. Examples included a 720kg Belgian Blue at €1.85/kg and a 670kg Limousin at €1.90/kg. Two separate lots of Aberdeen Angus bullocks, a batch of seven at 375kg and three at 370kg both clicked €2.28/kg; a sure sign that good Angus are never out of fashion. Among the heifers Aberdeen Angus again helped set the pace with one 530kg example making €2.21/kg.
With 500kg Charolais heifers making up to €2.80/kg and Charolais weanling bulls of the same weight hitting €2.74/kg there was no shortage of money for good stock here. In short this was a sale dominated by better cattle but manager Glen Cooper has some hard questions about quality and whether their numbers can last. “There is no doubt quality is falling as are their numbers.”
The story here was of a good trade all round with cull cows in particular seeing strong interest. Among those culls were a 625kg Limousin who made €1.88/kg while 760kg Charolais made €1.67/kg. The Friesian is the life blood of the cull trade however with some of the better offerings here in the 630-730kg range selling from €1.42-1.58/ kg. The Friesian was also well received among the bullocks with one batch of seven at 559kg hitting €1.87/kg or €1,050/hd.
They might even be considered value come the spring should factory prices stay steady.
Trade for the forward 500kg plus bullock saw the base for Friesians established at €1.70/kg with Herefords and Angus selling from €1.95/kg upwards. Forward continentals operated off of a €2.25 base with lighter Charolais and Limousins making from €2.20-2.75/kg. Among the heifers forward Angus and Hereford types sold from €2.00-2.30/ kg, while lighter stores hit a top of €2.75/ kg. Trade for cull cows was very active with Friesians making from €100-350/hd with the €/kg while continental culls sold from €200-850/hd with the €/kg. Friesian calves sold from €90-160/hd with the majority selling in the €100-130/hd range.
Trade remained firm here with weanling heifers reported as improved by €20-30/ hd with some Limousins in the 280-290kg weight bracket making from €2.84-3.36/ kg. Among the weanling bulls in the 400- 430kg section were 430kg Limousins who made €2.47 and a 405kg Charolais at €2.67/kg. Trade for forward bullocks zipped along very nicely with prices in the €2.50- 2.75/kg range not uncommon for the better continental. The dry cow was also well in demand here with one well fleshed 710kg Limousin hitting €1.95/kg.
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