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Saturday 23 February 2019

Ringside at Headford Mart: 'The mood this time last year was far more positive'

A bullock weighing 580kg owned by Francis Divilly, Corrandulla went for €1,340 at Headford mart cattle and sheep sale. Photo: Ray Ryan
A bullock weighing 580kg owned by Francis Divilly, Corrandulla went for €1,340 at Headford mart cattle and sheep sale. Photo: Ray Ryan
Tom Newell, Kilbannon, Tuam at Headford mart cattle and sheep sale. Photo: Ray Ryan.
Three-year-old Amy Corbett from Headford at Headford mart cattle and sheep sale. Photo: Ray Ryan.
John and Mary O'Reilly from Moycullen with Auctioneer Pat Burke at Headford mart cattle and sheep sale. Photo: Ray Ryan.
A dry cow weighing 685kg owned by PJ Conneely, Belclare, Tuam went for €1,300 at Headford mart cattle and sheep sale. Photo: Ray Ryan
A heifer weighing 420kg owned by Brian McDonagh, Hedford went for €990 at Headford mart cattle and sheep sale. Photo: Ray Ryan
A pin of Galway sheep at Headford mart cattle and sheep sale. Photo: Ray Ryan.
Mike Loftus, Kilmaine makes a bid watched by Martin Lydon and Michael Gibbons, both from Cross. Photo: Ray Ryan.

I have never been to the country around Headford in Galway, but in putting together this piece on Headford Co-operative Livestock Mart I may just put that to rights in 2019, writes Martin Coughlan.

Having first opened for business on September 1, 1974, Headford's mart has developed to become integral to the business of the town, and to the farming community it set out to serve.

I spoke to mart manager Joe Wynne after their first sale of 2019 last Saturday, and began by asking how he thought farmers in this part of the west were viewing prospects for the coming year.

"Men are unsure as to what might happen. Last year was very tough on the ground for cattle men, especially as factory prices went nowhere in the run up to Christmas. The mood this time last year (January 2018) was far more positive with bullocks at the factories on €4.10 and better."

John and Mary O'Reilly from Moycullen with Auctioneer Pat Burke at Headford mart cattle and sheep sale. Photo: Ray Ryan.
John and Mary O'Reilly from Moycullen with Auctioneer Pat Burke at Headford mart cattle and sheep sale. Photo: Ray Ryan.

Joe commented that his mart trade for bullocks and heifers has started 2019 very similar to how it finished in 2018. The top price of the day on the bullock side went for a 565kg Charolais that made €1,340 or 2.37/kg, while among the heifers, the best price was €990 or €2.36/kg achieved by a 420kg Limousin. Despite all the negativity surrounding prospects for beef and the increasing variability of quality coming through, prices here at the lower end never fell below €1.73-1.74/kg for either bullocks or heifers.

Moving on to the weanlings, prices for heifers ranged from €1.89-2.86/kg, with bulls making from €1.74-2.98/kg. In both sections, the top price honours were grabbed by Charolais, at weights ranging from 175kg on the heifer side to 235kg among the bulls. Cull cows sold from €570-1,300/hd.

Joe commented that with actual numbers of heifers, bullocks and weanlings on Saturday only "average", it may take a few weeks before the early trends for 2019 can be gauged.

On the sheep side, Saturday's sale here saw 2019 begin on a very positive note. "Lambs were well improved," Joe noted. With factory buyers for the heavier lots, and plenty of farmer interest in the lighter store, prices were better by €8-12/hd. This gave a price range for lambs of €60-110/hd, with that top call going to a batch weighing 54kg. Other samples of interest included 44kg at €95/hd, 40kg at €85 and on the store side, 35kg at €85/hd.

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With the yards cleared and the paperwork done, Joe and his staff can relax a little, before preparing for next Saturday's onslaught.

Mike Loftus, Kilmaine makes a bid watched by Martin Lydon and Michael Gibbons, both from Cross. Photo: Ray Ryan.
Mike Loftus, Kilmaine makes a bid watched by Martin Lydon and Michael Gibbons, both from Cross. Photo: Ray Ryan.

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