Marts still feeling the aftershock of beef protests
I asked Stephen Hannon of Ballymote to gaze into his mart crystal ball over the weekend.
Without mentioning Brexit or factory prices, Stephen speculated that "a lot of good stores could sell for around €2/kg this autumn" with "plain cattle hard sold, and it could get worse".
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There are few who would disagree at this point on what he has to say.
Figures from his own mart show current returns are already back €100/hd on this time last year.
John Osbourne of Kilcullen commented that mart numbers were being affected by the Beef Plan protest. "Numbers are back because those selling don't know if the men with beef to kill are in a position to buy replacements," he explained.
While some sales yards did see good turnouts, a majority appear to have had less stock on offer in recent days.
This reduction in numbers was a major factor in why our Ringside tables show prices improving across a majority of grades and weights of bullocks and heifers.
Overall average returns for bullocks improved by between 3-10c/kg, with the quality animal being the main driver rising as he did by between 13-25c/kg in all weight divisions.
That 25c/kg improvement came in the top quarter of the 400-499kg section, a division that recorded a very significant fall of 19c/kg two weeks ago.
Likewise, that gain of 9c/kg in the overall price of the 600kg+ bullock section has to be measured against a 5c/kg loss from two weeks ago.
So, while the figures look impressive, 600kg+ bullocks up €54/hd, the better quality 500-599kg animal up by €125-155/hd, a lot of what we are seeing is just a rebalancing of returns over a number of weeks. The fear remains that as we close in on the autumn, much has yet to be decided.
The mart trade for heifers last week, was to use the old cliché a game of two halves.
A bit like Dublin going in two points down at half time in the All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday.
In a tight first half, overall average loses at the lighter end were kept very much in check, with the 350-399kg heifer back 4c/kg while the 400-499kg heifer was less by just 2c/kg.
Once over the halfway line, there was a complete reversal of fortune, however, as the 500-599kg cattle gained 8c/kg, €40-48/kg overall with the 600kg+ heifer seeing a 17c/kg, €102/hd turnaround from last week.
In the know...
The comment was that numbers were back here due to "the match". It was a bad day as it turned out for Mayo in Dublin, while in Balla those smaller numbers saw the bullocks also fail to perform to expectations. In general, 300-400kg bullocks averaged €1.96/kg, with the tops seeing €2.69/kg. In the 400-500kg section, bullocks averaged €1.88/kg, with the top call going to a 485kg Charolais at €2.43/kg. Heavier bullocks averaged €2.00/kg.
Heifers were a stronger trade than bullocks with those up to 400kg averaging €2.08/kg, an average that was mirrored in the 400-500kg section.
Bullocks averaged from €1.28-2.54/kg, with heifers making from €1.47-2.50/kg. Sample prices on the bullock side included that 355kg Limousin at €2.54/kg plus the day's top price of €1,210 paid for a 500kg Charolais, €2.42/kg.
On the heifer side, you had a 535kg Limousin doing €1,090 or €2.04/kg versus that €2.50/kg, €825 for a 330kg Simmental. Weanling bulls sold from €1.17-2.52/kg, with cull cows making up to €1,080/hd.
Stephen Hannon reported that numbers remain low in his neck of the woods but that prices are currently back €100/hd on this time last year. The better performers last week were the better bullocks, with 500-600kg continentals making from €700-720/hd with the weight. Plain stock continue to be a tougher sell, while movement and age issues also continue to depress the market Stephen said.
John Osbourne noted that last week's sale here saw a reduction in numbers as the effects of the Beef Plan factory protest filtered down. "Numbers were back because those selling don't know if the men with beef to sell are in a position to buy replacements," he said. John noted your average 400kg continental bullock sold around the €2.10-2.20/kg mark, with the very tops making between €2.30-2.40/kg. Friesian stores sold from €1.30-1.40/kg with the occasional better type seeing €1.60/kg.
Demand here saw beef and store prices improve by €30-60/hd, while on the weanling side bulls under 450kgs were also a stronger trade. Beef and forward bullocks sold from €550-870/hd over the €1/kg, with continental stores making from €450-760 over the €1/kg. Friesian bullocks sold from €120-450 over the weight. Beef heifers made from €520-750 over the weight, with store heifers selling from €320-660 with their weight. Bull weanlings made from €380-670 with the €1/kg. Store cows made up to €350 along with their weight.
A smaller sale that saw the store trade holding steady while the market for beef types slipped €20-30/hd as buyers accessed factory prospects.
Heavy bullocks made from €1.80-2.15/kg, with forward stores selling from €1.90-2.30/kg. Lighter stores sold from €2.00-2.45/kg. Beef heifers made from €1.85-2.20/kg, with stores making from €2.05-2.50/kg. Weanling bulls sold from €2.00-2.60/kg, with weanling heifers making from €2.10-2.75/kg. Dry cows sold from €1.20-1.75/kg.
Prices here as everywhere else last week were affected by the unknown. The unknown being how soon the factories would be back in full operation. Sample prices especially among the heavier bullocks reflected this and the fact that when you allow stock to run on you may have missed the boat.
Three 900kg Herefords at €1,400/hd being a case in point when compared to six 650kg Herefords at €1,165. That's €1.55/kg as opposed to €1.79/kg. A shade better at €1.80/kg were two 665kg Shorthorns.
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