I had a positive experience when I visited Kilkenny mart for its reopening last Thursday, but I’ve had mixed reports from other locations, with tales of some Department of Agriculture officials being overzealous in the application of their authority.
One example of common sense being thrown out the window involved a supervising Department of Agriculture official at a mart in the west insisting that a long-time married couple be separated to adhere to social distancing guidelines, despite the intervention of the mart manager.
Then there were the Department officials checking the distance between seating spaces and then returning the morning of the sale to take a second set of readings.
With many marts continuing to operate their online bidding platforms alongside a live ring, the bullock trade moved up a few gears.
It was the dealers and agents with factory orders to buy heavy beef, especially cull cows, that drove the trade, rather than those traditional summer grazers who had bided their time waiting for the marts to reopen.
The stability of the factory trade, aided by a recently revived live export trade to Northern Ireland for beef, is fuelling confidence, and that is helping mart prices.
The 600kg+ bullock averaged 19c/kg better overall at €1.93/kg, with a surge of 33c/kg among bottom-quarter prices. Add in the 7c/kg gained two weeks ago and you’re looking at an overall average gain of 26c/kg in 14 days, which is a minimum of €156/hd. That’s serious money.
The heavy 600kg heifer only gained 1c/kg to average €1.99/kg; the better continental heifer at this weight continues to do the heavy lifting at €2.21/kg.
On the cull cow side, last week saw a continuation of a active northern export trade with agents either present or online periodically taking each other out at prices from €2.00-2.30/kg, especially for good “tight” continentals. Your 600kg bullock or heifer is now just shy of where it was 12 months ago when the factory base price was €3.85/kg and €3.95/kg respectively.
Those buyers who had bided their time until the marts opened weren’t idle either. Prices for the 400-499kg bullock rose 10c/kg to average €1.98/kg while your better continental pushed up to €2.39/kg. The 500-599kg bullock had a quieter week, adding just 3c/kg to his average of €1.88/kg.
However, if demand for beef continues to accelerate I can see that figure improving further.
In the know...
Prices were strong upon the resumption of trade here last week, with up to €2.50/kg being paid for bullocks from 400-450kg, while in the 450-500kg section a 490kg Limousin topped the poll at €2.45/kg.
Demand from Northern buyers for quality saw store heifers peak at €2.62/kg. On the weanling heifer side a 290kg Simmental set the bar at €3.31/kg, a bit ahead of the next best, a 255kg Limousin at €2.90/kg.
Strong demand for cull cows, helped by online Northern customers, saw the better tighter animal average €2/kg and better.
With Covid guidelines in place, there were bigger numbers here, plus renewed confidence, with the trade especially strong for the 380-450kg bullock.
Beef and forward store bullocks sold from €500-760/hd over the €/kg. Store bullocks over 400kg sold from €400-625/hd over the weight, with lighter lots making from €380-530/hd with the weight.
Beef heifers sold from €500-645/hd over the €/kg with stores averaging €400-460/hd over their weight.
With both ringside and online buyers active, prices for 300-400kg bullocks averaged €2.35/kg, with those in the 400-500kg bracket averaging €2.09/kg to a top of €2.37/kg.
Among the heavier bullocks prices averaged €1.95 to a top of €2.16/kg.
The heifer trade saw a spike in online bidding with those under 500kg averaging €2.31/kg, and heavier lots €2.09/kg
Heavy bullocks sold for €1.90-2.20/kg, with forward stores averaging €1.95-2.40/kg while your lighter store made €2.00-2.65/kg.
Beef heifers sold from €2.00-2.50/kg with stores making €2.10-2.75/kg.
Weanling bulls made €2.15-2.80/kg while weanling heifers sold for €2.15-2.80/kg. Dry cows made €1.10-1.70/kg.
With the online system meshing well with live bidding and a good mix of stock on offer, things progressed well.
Among the calves Friesian bulls sold from €100-140/hd with Angus types making up to €260/hd.
Among the bullocks, three 825kg Friesians made €1.64/kg, with a single at 570kg seeing €1.79/kg. Among the lighter bullocks a 305kg Charolais saw the hammer at €2.66/kg, followed by two 410kg Herefords at €1.88/kg.
On the heifer side a 315kg Limousin sold for €2.29/kg, with a 375kg Charolais making €2.11/kg.
This too was a combined live and online sale, with again both systems combining well.
On the heifer side a 515kg Charolais made €2.17/kg, a 445kg Angus €2.09/kg and a 480kg Charolais €2.23/kg.
Among the bullocks you had a 445kg Limousin at €2.43/kg, a 380kg Charolais at €2.43/kg and a 595kg Angus loaded up at €2.08/kg.
Best price of the day among the weanling bulls saw a 325kg Charolais making €2.62/kg, while on the cull cow side a 740kg Charolais X claimed top money at €1.81/kg.
Our ringside table for bullocks shows Tullow as outperforming the market last week up to 600kg.
Overall the combined national average for the 300-399kg bullock was €1.98/kg, but Tullow came in at €2.02/kg. In the 400-499kg section Tullow’s overall average of €2.12/kg was 14c/kg stronger than the national figure while in the 500-599kg division that difference grew to 18c/kg — €2.06/kg as opposed to €1.88/kg nationally.
Above 600kg, however, bullocks here didn’t perform as strongly as elsewhere.