To buy or not to buy, that is the question in beef trade
My daughter Emily returns this week from her trip to Tanzania, where she and a group from her school were involved in a rural building project.
They have been introduced to the Masai tribe, who occupy the northern part of that country.
With the Masai chef in charge of food for the duration being named Patrick, and Masai families -like their Irish farming counterparts - measuring wealth by the number of cattle owned, my daughter's little group were not short of conversation pieces.
We got a taste of Tanzania's dry season last year but this year all is different.
With grass growing very well due to the damp conditions, your typical Irish cattle farmer often encounters conflicting problems at this time of the year.
The same rain that has led to such a good crop of silage is now hampering its saving. And out in the grazing block, grass growth is getting ahead of the cattle.
Cue, either a call to your local round-bale contractor or an emergency visit to your local mart.
So, assuming you decide to forego the round bales option, what is out there that offers a realistic chance of a return? That is the €100m question at any time of the year.
In my mini marts section, I ask what should the man who sold two 885kg Hereford bullocks in Kanturk for €1,700/hd and an 810kg Friesian for €1,520 do with his €4,920 cheque.
Should he chance it against those five 583kg Friesians at €990/hd - total €4,950? Should he purchase, with the aim of possibly sending them to the factory come November?
Over the road in Macroom two 585kg Herefords made €1,200/hd last week.
This man will obviously be going further down the weights. His possible objective is moving whatever he buys now back through the mart system in late autumn.
Some of his choices in Macroom included two 350kg Angus bullocks at €800/hd, three 280kg Herefords at €690/hd and a 320kg blonde Aquitaine at €850.
In both cases I have not mentioned either mart, factory or haulage costs.
The general rule of thumb is it costs about €50/hd to change a bullock. Add to this any meal fed, and the farmer must hope that factory prices improve. Tricky business.
What about the heifer option? Last week the Ringside average for your 400-499kg heifer remained steady at €2.10/kg, with continental types averaging €2.19/kg and the Angus at €1.92/kg. Above these in the more forward 500-599kg categories, overall average prices slipped 6c/kg to €2.05/kg, with your continental type €2.17/kg and your Angus at €1.91/kg.
The bull weanling last week had an up and down time of it; the 100-299kg bull saw his average improve by 19c/kg to €2.31/kg.
The main beneficiaries were the better types; places such as Ennis reported a strong trade, with exporters active. Average prices for those better types came in at €3.06/kg.
The 300-399kg bull didn't fare as well, falling 13c/kg to €2.21/kg. Strong demand in the 400-600kg section, however, saw overall average prices lift by 8c/kg to €2.25/kg.
Sometimes the figures throw up anomalies that aren't easily explained. When last week's figures were tallied, it was noticed that the top quarter 300-399kg bull was back 30c/kg, while the same quality animal in the 400-600 section improved 31c/kg. Swings and roundabouts…
In the know...
1. New Ross
Jim Bushe reports a very lively trade with plenty of customers ringside. Competition for quality was especially keen. Beef bullocks sold from €600-970/hd with the €1/kg, with continental stores making €480-800/hd over the €1/kg. Hereford and Angus sold from 300-600/hd with the weight. On the Friesian side heavy types made €400-635/hd over, with lighter types selling for €125-420 over. Beef heifers sold for €535-885/hd over the €1/kg, with continental stores making €380-680 over their weight.
Bullock prices here ranged from €1.18-2.88/kg, with that top per kg price going to a pair of 378kg Charolais that sold for €1,090/hd. Top price of the day, however, went to a 895kg Limousin that sold for €1,880. Heifers averaged €1.42-2.74/kg, with a 695kg Limousin making €1,500 or €2.16/kg, while a 365kg Limousin hit that €2.74/kg. Weanling heifers sold for €1.85-3.10/kg, with weanling bulls making €2.04-3.00/kg.
With grass growing well, demand for 'a few extra' to keep on top of it saw trade here move along nicely. In the heifer ring three 580kg Herefords closed out at €1,110/hd, while five 450kg Simmentals saw the hammer fall at €945/hd. On the bullock side factory men were keen, with two 885kg Herefords reaching €1,700/hd, while they pushed a single 810kg Friesian to €1,520. Added together that's €4,920. Would you chance it against those five 583kg Friesians that should be very fit come November? They made €990/hd or €4,950.
Trade for weanlings was strong here on the back of good exporter demand and tighter numbers. Quality between 280kg and 350kg was especially sought after. Sample prices included 255-360kg quality Limousin and Charolais bulls selling from €2.80-3.22/kg, with a selection of 450-480kg Charolais making €2.44-2.52/kg. On the heifer side, top whack saw both a 270kg Charolais and a 340kg Limousin click €3.35/kg. Possibly more attainable with beef prices being the way they are for your Irish farmer were three 360kg Limousins at €2.68/kg.
Dry cows sold for €75-480/hd over the €1/kg, with Hereford and Angus bullocks averaging €260-615/hd over the €1/kg. Sample bullock prices included two 585kg Herefords at €1,200/hd. Those two sold, how about restocking? Two 350kg Angus at €800/hd, or maybe go up in numbers? Three 280kg Herefords? €690 a head. Or maybe throw that 320kg Blonde Aquitaine at €850 in with the two Anguses. You're over budget by €50 but maybe you'll get back a few quid in luck.
This was a reasonable size sale for the time of year with good numbers of buyers ringside. Prices for 300-400kg bullocks averaged €2.23/kg, with the top call going to a 390kg Charolais X at €2.77/kg. The 400-500kg section averaged €2.22/kg, with one 415kg dinger of a Limousin making €3.30/kg. Above 500kg prices averaged €2.13/kg. In the heifer ring prices were up on the previous week, with those under 400kg averaging €2.51/kg to a top of €3.34/kg. In the 400-500kg section prices averaged €2.29/kg; exceptional quality drew the big bucks: €3.30/kg for a 485kg Simmental.
Stock numbers continued strong here with a big entry of cattle and calves. Demand was unabated with farmers, factory agents and those involved with the export trade all active. Prices for forward beef bullocks ranged from 630-1,010 over the €1/kg, with beef heifers making €550-830 with the €1/kg. Continental store bullocks sold from €450-870 with the weight, with Friesian types making €100-580 with the weight. Hereford and Angus bullocks made €370-790 with the €1/kg, while store heifers ranged €260 to €780 with the weight.
For Stories Like This and More
Download the Free Farming Independent App