Spring has turned into a prefect storm for sellers
Your typical Irish beef farmer must feel a bit like a front-row in a scrum at the moment: head down, driving forward, apparently oblivious to life outside his immediate concerns and surroundings.
As with a prop, you can’t really see where you’re going but until the whole thing collapses or gets completely turned, you just keep pushing in the direction you think is the right one.
And push on is exactly what happened on the bullock table last week, with the exception of the 300-399kg section.
The heifer, on the other hand was more up and down, with only the heavier 600kg+ animal showing consistency, putting on 4-5/kg across all her subdivisions.
With the bullocks, there was a considerable push from buyers for both Angus and Hereford types, which helps explain why the overall average price of Angus was just 12c/kg behind the combined average of all breeds last week in both the 300-399kg and 400-499kg weight divisions.
That gap narrowed to 7c/kg or €35-42/hd in the 500-599kg division before widening to 13c/kg in the 600kg+ section.
Overall last week bullock prices from 400-600kg+ rose within their various quality sections by 1-9c/kg, leaving overall averages up by 1-5c/kg.
The 300-399kg bullock slipped 2c/kg overall to €2.07/kg as the numbers of lesser-quality animals presented not only dragged their own average back by 9c/kg but also nullified any positive moves among the better animal at this weight.
With grass growing unseasonally well and farmers keen to move on stock and with feedlot buyers active, this spring is turning into a perfect storm for sellers.
Given that Brexit is looming and with factory prices well below those of 12 months ago, the strength of the mart trade is a bit of a mystery.
The mart managers I surveyed agreed that trade was good, and John O’Hanlon of Ballymahon offered a good explanation.
“Trade was swift and keen all the way through. I suppose with a lot of cattle killed in the last few months farmers want to have the stock bought in ahead of possibly even more uncertain times,” he said.
Gerry Finnerty of Ennis added: “Lads are probably banking on good weather continuing and that Brexit will be a transition with anything bought now being gone before it really bites.”
Numbers here were strong but overall the trade stayed steady. Among the better prices on the heifer side were were five 485kg Angus who sold for €925/hd, with three others, possibly a shade better, at 470kg making €920/hd. However, the batch of the day was the ten 515kg Angus bullocks who clicked €1,025/hd. Any sellers with better Angus could expect to hit €1.85-€2.00/kg for both heifers and bullocks.
John O’Mahony said the trade is generally in a good place considering all the variables. Again, better Angus types in the 470-550kg bracket hit €2.00/kg. Samples included four 520kg Angus bullocks at €1,120/hd, with two at 505kg making €1,060/hd. The better Hereford also performed well with three at 400kg making €815/hd. On the heifer side a nice batch of nine 510kg Angus sold for €1,045/hd.
While bulls and anything that might be out of spec was a difficult trade, the in-spec good bullock and heifer had no fears. Heavy bullocks sold from €1.85-2.35/kg with forward stores making €1.95-2.50/kg, and lighter stores €2.00-2.90/kg. On the heifer side beef lots made €2.00-2.40/kg with store heifers making up to €2.85/kg. Weanling bulls made €2.05-2.70/kg while weanling heifers sold from €2.00-3.00/kg. Dry cows made €1.00-2.00/kg.
A big sale, with the better bullocks and heifers dominating stronger prices. Examples among the bullocks included a number of lots of Charolais from 445-576kg who sold from €2.45-2.54/kg, with one exceptional 515kg Charolais making €2.71/kg. On the heifer side your better 370-450kg Charolais or Limousin typically made €2.40-2.80/kg, with many of the better heavier lots at €2.10-2.30/kg.
The good weather was also encouraging buyers in Kerry, with prices improving across all categories. Sample prices included on the bullock side included two 540kg Belgian Blues who sold for €2.36/kg, while three 570kg Charolais clicked €2.34/kg. Giving a broader indication that a rising tide lifts all boats were the six 475kg Hereford X bullocks who romped to €2.17/kg. On the heifer side you had three 385kg Charolais who sold for 2.56/kg, while two 460kg Limousins who saw €2.26/kg were followed by a further two at 380kg that saw the hammer at €2.39/kg.
The better-quality store was also much in demand here, with beef bullocks selling from €540-945/hd over the €/kg. Continental stores made €480-780/hd over the €/kg, with Hereford and Angus making €355-555/hd over the €/kg. Heavy Friesian bullocks made from €355-560/hd over their weight, with lighter Friesian stores making €180-400/hd over their weight.
Beef heifers sold from €500-845/hd over the weight with continental stores making €400-655/hd over the €/kg. Hereford and Angus heifers made €300-480/hd over their weight. Beef cows made 280-600/hd over the €/kg, with stores €100-280/hd over their weight. Parlour cows sold from €70/hd under the €/kg to €90/hd over the €/kg.
John O’Hanlon, reckoned that farmers were not yet full of the joys of spring — especially as Brexit weighs heavy this close to the border — but were “swift and keen” once his sale started last week. At one end of the bullock table you had a 640kg Charolais at €1,350, while at the other end three 330kg Charolais were making €970/hd. In the heifer ring there was a 695kg Charolais who sold for €1,540, while among the weanling heifers, various Charolais from 350-365kg sold from €1,000-1,020/hd.
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