Mart trade: Stagnation once again as heavy stock prove hard to shift


Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

It was a case of stagnation once again on beef prices at the mart last week.

The Ringside averages on the bullock table show that positive movement stopped once you went above 600kgs. Below this, any improvements were small.

The greatest average increase in price was just 3c/kg and was recorded among the lighter 300-399kg division as buyers continue to reappraise the cost of keeping these lighter animals given that the winter is already six to eight weeks later arriving in some areas than it was in 2017.

Eric Driver of Tullow Mart in Carlow commented on the trade for those lighter cattle saying that they "are getting better" partly, he believes, because "men are now less stressed because they got the (70pc) Single Farm Payment" - plus, he says, "the good weather has helped".

There were also a few other factors that mart managers reckon are effecting the trade. The first is to do with numbers.

"Many farmers have now almost filled their quota for buying cattle this year so if numbers remain big, prices may start coming under pressure," says George Candler of Kilkenny Mart.

The second also takes a trained eye and experience to spot. "Lads are accepting the trade," says John O'Hanlon of Ballymahon Mart in Longford. He explained that once the bidding stops those selling are inclined to accept that the mark their cattle have achieved is where the market is at and leave the sale go through.

All of this helps explain why movement on the bullock table, below the 600kg mark, was confined to the minimum 1c/kg increase in overall average prices in both the 400-499kg and 500-599kg sections, with the 300-399kg section as already mentioned rising by just 3c/kg or €9-12/hd.

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Above the 600kg mark, the continuing uncertainty over when finishers can hope to see a price rise dampened the market and helped wipe 4c/kg or a minimum of €24/hd off the average price of your heavier 600kg+ bullock.

Last week I reported that heifer prices "fluctuated more than fell" as prices on our table moved both up and down.

The range of that "fluctuation" was from -4c/kg to +4c/kg across various weight divisions.

Last week there was no positive movement among the overall price averages on the heifer table as prices took a hit.

That hit ranged from 3-9c/kg or €12-54/hd, with those losses getting progressively greater the higher up the weight scale you went.

Moving to the weanling trade last week saw a deal of movement across both the bull and heifer table.


Averages for those lighter 100-299kg bulls rose 14c/kg or €14-42/hd, while the 300-399kg animal slipped 6c/kg or €18-24/hd. The 400-600kg bull took the biggest hit dropping 11c/kg which works out at €44-66/hd.

The hit among those heavier bulls seems to contradict what many mart mangers told me over the weekend - that the better conformation bull was going well with both farmers and finishers keen. Keen, yes, but at a price it would seem.

The reality is that with feed prices higher than 12 months ago and with no factory willing to give any firm indications of where the price of the finished article might be in three to four months, most feeders are being cautious.

I'd rather them to be cautious than stop buying.

While overall average prices for weanling heifers below 400kgs were steady last week, prices for the better heifer at that weight registered an increase of 5-7c/kg or €5-42/hd. The more forward 400-550kg heifer, however, fell back by 11c/kg on average leaving them €44-60/hd worse off.

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