Martin Coughlan: Mart trade for out-of-spec and heavy stock a 'bloodbath'

The best pen of three Limousin cross bulls at a weanling show & sale in Corrin Mart, Fermoy are pictured with judge Billy Finn, Glounthaune, Michael Ryan, mart committee, owner Cornelius O'Brien, Ballyduff Upper, Co Waterford and Pat Corbett, Mayo Health Care (sponsor). Photo O'Gorman Photography.
The best pen of three Limousin cross bulls at a weanling show & sale in Corrin Mart, Fermoy are pictured with judge Billy Finn, Glounthaune, Michael Ryan, mart committee, owner Cornelius O'Brien, Ballyduff Upper, Co Waterford and Pat Corbett, Mayo Health Care (sponsor). Photo O'Gorman Photography.
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Mart trade across the country is dominated by continuing high turnouts.

Underpinning these numbers is the need for sellers to move stock as field conditions deteriorate field due to the weather.

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George Chandler of Kilkenny Mart commented: "The wet weather has meant that farmers buying cattle don't have the same options of putting them out to grass as in the previous weeks. It also means that if this broken weather continues animals will need to be housed much earlier than last year."

He also noted that the most difficult animals to shift currently are heavy/factory type stock with €2/kg becoming more the exception than the norm.

Another mart manager went further, describing the trade for those heavy animals and any out of spec as being "a bloodbath".

The reason for the weakening prices for bigger bullocks and heifers is that with factories barely able to handle the numbers being offered from finishers, those wishing to buy the shorter keep bullock are faced with uncertainty about when they might be able to get them away.

Also playing into the mix is that as long as the numbers at factories remain very strong, current and future price quotes will be subject to downward pressure.

All of is before we look at where trade may go after Britain's scheduled exit from the EU on October 31.

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The heavy bullock isn't the only section feeling the pressure of all this uncertainty.

Having rallied a little towards the end of September, the Friesian store last week slipped back by up to €50/hd in places with poorer quality stock struggling to make the €1.30/kg mark and many back around €1.10/kg.

Your average black and white is now selling around €1.45-1.55/kg with only the best of the best seeing €1.70/kg. It's a similar story for any poorer conformation Hereford and Angus.

The one light at the end of the tunnel, in the short-term, is that the first instalment of the Single Farm Payment is due out in about two weeks as is the first of the BEAM money.

Weanling trade

These cheques usually give a bump to mart prices, but with factory prices having steadily declined this year the percentage of those cheques that may make it into the mart system will probably be reduced as overdue family and farm bills are tackled.

The one piece of good news is that the weanling trade continues to move well.

The long-term picture, though, is not so good. Michael Harty of Roscrea remarked to me that with the suckler herd in decline and shippers now wiping the floor with farmers for the better weanling, the future for those who have built their living around fattening better conformation stock looks bleak. He listed off prices from his recent sale that saw good weanlings selling around the €2.60-2.90/kg mark. "With factory prices where they are, very few of those better animals were bought by farmers. The number of good cattle to come out next spring as stores has to suffer," he said.

In the know

Maam Cross

The light weanling was the animal of first choice here with a strong trade seeing bulls averaging €2.38/kg to a top of €3.19/kg. Weanling heifers averaged €2.24 to €2.91 with the top call in money being €800 for a 298kg Limousin (2.68/kg). Bullocks averaged €1.66/kg to a top of €2.38/kg, the price paid for a 458kg Charolais.

On the breeding side a Limousin cow with a heifer calf at foot went for €1,480.

Raphoe

There was also a strong show of stock here with quality lots - once in spec - seeing plenty of action. However, anything lighter and plainer struggled.

Averages from the sale sheets show bulls and bullocks selling from €1.80-2.00/kg with heifers making from €1.90-2.60/kg. Plainer lots averaged from €1.60-2.00/kg.

On the dry cow side, prices ran from €500-1,480/hd.

Kanturk

There were bigger numbers here also as deteriorating weather conditions pushed extra stock off the land. Sample prices among the weanling bulls saw two 356kg Charolais selling for €815/hd with two 250kg Friesians making €390/hd. On the heifer side four 325kg Limousin saw €700/hd with three 330kg Charolais made €720/hd.

Compare those prices to six 450kg Charolais heifers in the main ring at €920/hd or the eight 410/kg Angus at €780/hd. Among the bullocks the choice price was the 615kg Angus which sold at €1,005/hd.

Kilkenny

With less customers showing and more cattle than previous weeks George Chandler described last Thursday's sale as "tough". Heavy cattle were difficult with the €2/kg mark only being breeched for top quality. Friesian bullocks ranged in general from €1.35-1.60/kg with €1.70/kg only reached where the quality was again exceptional.

The heifer trade by comparison was steady with heavy heifers selling from €1.70-2.20/kg while stores sold from €1.60-2.25/kg. Friesian cull cows sold from 70c/kg to €1.40/kg while continentals made from €1.20-1.75/kg.

Roscrea

Hosted a successful show and sale with strong prices seeing continental bulls selling well as shippers moved strongly. However, manager Michael Harty said "farmers can't compete (with shippers). How can they with beef where it is at present?

"With dairying continuing to expand and the good weanlings we have been shipped I would worry as to where the numbers of next year's quality stores will come from," he added.

Kilrush

There were higher numbers but the heavier over-age bullock was a tough sale while 2018-born stores moved well. Sample prices from the sheets show three 330kg Charolais bullocks selling for €2.74/kg while another three Charolais, this time weighing 556kgs, made €2.04/kg.

Of more interest for those with next year's grazing in mind were the two 460kg Friesians who made €1.75/kg with five 464kg Herefords seeing €2.04/kg.

There's a lot to think about when you study those four prices.

Ballinakill

Bigger numbers here also saw beef and out of spec animals suffering as buyers shied away. Averages for heavy bullocks ranged from €1.65-2.05/kg but it had to a good one to get over that €2/kg hurdle. Forward stores made from €1.80-2.20/kg with lighter stores making from €1.90-2.30/kg.

On the heifer side beef sold from €1.85-2.10/kg with stores making from €1.90-2.30/hd.

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