Marts are packed but buyers are hard to find
Fear of what may lie ahead as regards the continuing drought and fodder shortages is beginning to stalk the thinking of the farming community. The effects of this fear became evident at marts last week where some with cattle to sell appeared to heave a sigh of relief as the hammer finally fell.
Despite taking possibly up to a €100/hd hit when comparing prices to three weeks ago, mart managers noted a general acceptance from sellers that in this most extraordinary of years, you do what is in the best long-term interest of your overall business.
The other striking thing from last week was the number of marts who reported big turnouts of farmers despite actual numbers of stock not being above average for the time of year. The reason for these numbers is that in time of crisis, if you're a farmer in Dingle in Kerry or Ballymahon in Longford, where do go for the latest news, views and opinions? Your local mart.
In my mini mart reports I picked out specific examples of where I think buyers, while possibly under pressure for grass themselves, continue to give a very fair price for stock. Down in Corrin in Cork, a batch of ten 540kg Friesian bullocks together sold for €1.71/kg which is more or less bang on the overall national average last week for Friesians in our 500-599kg section of our ringside table.
Up in Ballinrobe in west Mayo, your better conformation bullock cracked on well last week, as shown by 430kg Charolais bullocks who made €2.60/kg, while in the heifer ring, a 405kg Limousin X raised the flag to €2.84/kg.
Indeed, John O'Hanlon of Ballymahon mart noted that his 400-500kg bullock was actually up 3-6c/kg last week. That left their Ballymahon average price at €2.28/kg, over half way between the overall ringside average for this weight of €2.01/kg and the Ringside's top quarter average of €2.47/kg. Also of note, both those Ringside averages are up 3c and 7c respectively on two weeks ago, which also mirrors Mr O'Hanlon's figures.
The reality, however, is that in many instances, those with cattle to sell are holding back because sellers realise buyers have become scarce due to the drought.
This reduction in numbers last week helped the store trade from 400-599kg recover in part some of those severe losses suffered in recent weeks. This was not the case in the 600kg+ section of the bullock table where overall averages slid by 2-5c/kg again last week. That brings the cumulative fall in mart prices for this section to 16c/kg in four weeks, that's €96/hd. The difference of course is that the price falls at this end of the weight scale are the result of continuing factory price pulls rather than worries over fodder or grass.