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Prices take a hit as silage keeps farmers out of marts

Bullocks down 10-12c/kg in response to factory cuts but insiders expect trade to bounce back

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On the move: This Limousin cross heifer, weighing 565kg, made €1,450 at Mohill Mart. Photo: Gerry Faughnan

On the move: This Limousin cross heifer, weighing 565kg, made €1,450 at Mohill Mart. Photo: Gerry Faughnan

Enniscorthy calf sales

Enniscorthy calf sales

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On the move: This Limousin cross heifer, weighing 565kg, made €1,450 at Mohill Mart. Photo: Gerry Faughnan

Lots of sales remain very big for the time of year, but some did report a fall in numbers — many farmers were preoccupied with silage in the good weather and stayed away from the sales ring.

The big question is, with that silage now safely stowed away, will those farmers be back in the market in a few weeks looking for extra cattle to graze after-grass?

Average prices last week slipped by 10-12c/kg on the bullock side — a drop of €30-50/hd for everything under 500kg, and around €60/hd for those above 500kg, with the better 500-599kg store back nearly €100/hd.

Driving this fall-off in mart prices is the factories’ decision to cut their quotes for bullocks and heifers by 10-15c/kg over the last two weeks, with cows back 20c/kg.

Without meaning to sound flippant, dropping €100/hd off the mart price of a heavy cull dairy cow would hardly be noticed by those selling, so strong has that trade become.

But for those with better-bred suckler stock from 500-599kg, €100 is a significant amount of money, given where costs are at.

Patsy Smith in Dowra, Barney O’Connell in Listowel and William Jones in Ballymahon all agreed that despite the recent fall in prices, “there is nothing wrong with the trade if it now stabilises”.

So the question is, will those buying attempt to use these factory price cuts to push the market lower, below the level they warrant?

While farmers are great to give out about how ruthless factories can be, there is no-one like the farmer finisher to turn the price screw at a mart if they see the opportunity.

That said, Patsy Smith expects to see a fall-off in the numbers of three-quarter-finished stock presenting at marts as a result of the fall in the live price because of that factory pull.

He expects some of those who had previously been presenting those types to now consider whether they might be better off “holding on to their cattle and finish them themselves”.

Those selling should bear in mind that demand from factories has seen over 75,000 extra cattle go under the knife so far this year, and while farmers with cattle killed will always want cheaper stores, we are still in June and supplies to factories and marts usually tighten at this time.

But we’re in uncharted waters as regards price, and anything could happen.

In the Know – around the marts

Kilkenny

George Candler reported a slight reduction in numbers at 940, and while quality maintained he noted that plainer lots have become a more difficult sell.

Among the top calls in the 600kg+ bullock division were two 780kg Charolais at €3.23/kg and five 610kg Angus at €2.87/kg.

In the 500-600kg section prices ranged from €2.10-3.19/kg, with lighter stores making €1.70-3.55/kg. Beef and forward heifers made €2.40-3.29/kg, with lighter stores €2.10-3.27/kg.

Continental cull cows sold from €1.60-3.25/kg with Friesians €1.05-2.70/kg.

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Tom McGuire noted numbers as “holding extraordinarily well for the middle of June” with prices to match.

Among the heifers, the benchmark was set by a 510kg Limousin at €1,610 or €3.15/kg, followed by a 490kg Saler X at €3.06/kg, while top call on the Angus side was €3.00/kg for 350kgs.

A 705kg Limousin bullock sold for €2,040 or 2.90/kg but buying his replacement might not leave a lot of change — the obvious choice for a quick turnaround was a 550kg Charolais who made €1,700, while a 355kg Limousin cost €1,220.

Baltinglass

A good trade across the board saw 550-570kg Limousin bullocks sell for €1,580-1,640/hd, while three 560kg Charolais made €1,370/hd.

On the traditional side a 480kg Angus made €1,330 with a 490kg Hereford making €1,100.

Among the Friesians top calls included €875 for a single weighing 400kg, while €1,140 bought another single at 500kg.

Among the heifers 460-470kg Charolais sold for €1,280-1,320/hd, with two at 400kgs averaging €1,150. Top call was a 455kg Limousin at €1,370.

Cull cows sold for €900-1,200/hd.

Enniscorthy

Kevin Murphy said “the trade continues to bring out the numbers” as forward stores sold for €2.60-3.00/kg, with quality Angus down through the weights also operating from €2.60-3.00/kg.

The better cull also cracked on to €3.00/kg, starting around the €2.00/kg mark. Straight-from-the-parlour

Friesians started at €1.20/kg with the top call seeing 780kgs make €1,940.

Numbers of Friesian bullocks have fallen off, with those around 500kg selling for €2.00-2.40/kg, while 400-500kg continental bullocks and heifers made €2.60-3.20/kg.

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Enniscorthy calf sales

Enniscorthy calf sales

Enniscorthy calf sales

Dowra

A smaller sale saw just over 300 sold, with the trade “a shade quieter”. Although that drop was €50-70/hd, Patsy Smith said there was nothing wrong with the trade.

But with prices tending to slide, he reckoned that some who usually sell three-quarter-finished stock through the marts would decide to finish them.

As it was, top-confirmation weanling bulls or heifers sold for €2.70-3.00/kg, with beefier cull cows making the same amount.

Ballymahon

William Jones noted that while trade for forward continentals and Angus bullocks remained firm at €2.80-3.10/kg, the number of buyers for lighter stores has eased back, leaving those lighter weights €20-30/hd less.

So 400-450kg continental stores sell for €1,200-1,250/hd, with the better 500-600kg bullock €1,700-2,000/hd.

Store cows made €2.50-2.70/kg, with beef cows €2.60-3.00/kg. The top call was a 785kg continental at €2,400 or €3.05/kg, while a 1,105kg six-year-old Hereford stock bull sold for €2,550.

William expects mart numbers to lessen.

Listowel

Barney O’Connell also noted a slight softening in prices as the market here eased by €20-30/hd across all weights.

But with farmers last week very busy with silage, he felt a revival in prices might yet be possible once after grass starts to appear.

Still, those selling could not complain too much with cull cows from 550-700kg selling for €1.48-2.22/kg.

On the bullock side three 628kg Angus averaged €2.98/kg, with three 531kg Herefords averaging €2.90/kg, while twelve 610kg Friesians made €2.56/kg.

The question is, did they all go to grass or up the line?


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