Marts Report: Only low supply saving marts from meltdown

Wexford way: This 16-month-old 360Kg friesian heifer made €500 at Enniscorty Mart last week. Photo Roger Jones.
Wexford way: This 16-month-old 360Kg friesian heifer made €500 at Enniscorty Mart last week. Photo Roger Jones.
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Twelve months ago, we were in the middle of the longest dry spell in living memory - the long hot summer of 2018.

Factory prices that had seen bases as high as €4.15/kg for bullocks and €4.25/kg for heifers in early/mid-June were back around the €3.95-4.00 and €4.05-4.10/kg marks respectively.

In the marts, the trade fluctuated. Several strong weeks up to early June were followed by a gradual fall-off in price as buyers took in the reality that factory prices were not going to recover to their early June levels.

Twelve months on we have plenty of grass, but both the factory and mart trades are in a worse place.

Factory prices this week saw bullocks ranging from €3.60-3.65/kg, with heifers on €3.70-3.75/kg.

The only thing saving the mart trade from a total meltdown is the fact that numbers are small, and with grass growing very well farmers with surplus supplies are being tempted to buy extra numbers.

While the numbers going through the rings are seasonally reduced, cattle are being bought and that is making a difference.

On the mart price front, last week's national averages showed prices continuing to fall.

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However, on the bullock and heifer side the rate of decline was less than previously, while on the weanling side both bulls and heifers recovered some lost ground.

On the bullock side those between 400-599kg effectively remained static, with the 400-499kg animal less on average by just 1c/kg at €1.92/kg, while the 500-599kg bullock was unchanged at €1.96/kg. Compared to 12 months ago these prices are just 9c/kg less.

The 300-399kg light store's price improved last week by 5c/kg to €1.95/kg, putting him 1c/kg ahead of where he was this time last year.

The heavy 600kg+ bullock is a different story. He shed another 11c/kg or €66/hd and ended the week averaging €1.77/kg - that's 17c/kg behind early July 2018. In hard cash those heavier steers are now a minimum of €102/hd behind where they were this time last year.

It's the same story on the heifer side, with the 600kg+ heifer falling another 7c/kg and ending the week on an average of €1.86/kg. She is now 26c/kg (€156/hd) behind her 2018 average price of €2.12/kg.

Maurice Brosnan of Gortatlea mart is in no doubt that farmers are being put out of business.

"The only thing that is saving the trade is shippers are active for lighter weanlings," he said.

On a more positive note Maurice noted that some buyers appear to be switching to lighter stock as they take those reduced returns and reinvest. 

In the know


Although numbers were easier here last week and good cattle sold well, the continuing uncertainty around factory prices made Friesian-type stock difficult to move. Beef bullocks sold from €500-770/hd over the €1/kg, with store bullocks making €400-740/hd over the €1/kg. Beef heifers made €500-730/hd over their weight, with store heifers selling from €300-775/hd over the weight. Dry cows ranged from €675-1,520/hd.


There was extra farmer activity reported ringside here for stores as the drive to have enough stock on hand to keep grass under control continues. Among the top earners on the bullock side were a 435kg Limousin at €950, a 400kg Simmental at €865 and a 510kg Charolais at €1,140. Among the more forward bullocks, samples included a 630kg Charolais who saw the hammer at €1,330 and a 640kg Limousin who clicked €1,290. On the heifer side you had a 665kg Charolais who impressed at €1,500, while a 470kg Angus cracked on to €1,095.


Numbers were tidy, with bullocks averaging €2.30/kg to a top of €2.88/kg. That top bullock price went to an August 2018-born 298kg Charolais. The best on the heifer side saw a June 2016-born 710kg Charolais hit €1,370 or €1.93/kg, with the overall average among the heifers working out at €2.11/kg to a top of €2.75/kg. Bull weanlings averaged €2.37/kg to €3.18/kg, with the max price of €835/hd going to a 324kg July-born Limousin.


Among the almost 400 cattle on offer here were 80 cull cows; the majority were continentals, the best of which sold from €1.90/kg to just over €2/kg. Those with surplus grass to graze drove on quality stores and the younger cattle market. Sample prices on the bullock side saw four 427kg Charolais make a fine €2.71/kg only to be pipped for top spot by a 455kg Limousin at €2.76/kg. Among the heavier types you had a 670kg Friesian at €1.79/kg, a 740kg Hereford at €1.78/kg and four 768kg blonde Aquitaine Crosses at €2.12/kg.


This was a smaller sale with trade staying very similar to the previous week. Beef cows sold from €200-460hd over the €1/kg, with feeder cows making from €1/kg to €200 over. Beef and forward store bullocks sold from €545-880 over the €1/kg, with stores from 400-500kg making from €445-640 over the weight. Lighter bullocks made €340-545 over the €1/kg. Beef and butchers' heifers sold from €460-750 over their weight, with store heifers making €380-570 with the weight.


Maurice Brosnan summed it up when he said "factories are putting men out of business". His most recent sale was tough in places, but the trade for lighter high-quality weanlings performed as farmers and shippers went head to head. Samples from those lighter bulls up to 400kg show a 240kg Charolais making €2.96/kg, a 365kg Charolais at €2.60/kg and a 390kg Belgian Blue making €3.19/kg.


Bullock prices averaged €2.08/kg with 492kg Anguses setting the top bar/kg at €2.46/kg or €1,210/hd.

On the heifer side prices averaged €2.03/kg, with the top per/kg price of €2.36/kg claimed by a 490kg Limousin who clicked €1,155. Among the cull cows, prices ranged from a low of €600 to a top of €1,300/hd.

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