Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Do mart prices mirror movements in factory quotes?

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

While one would expect a close correlation between the two sides of the beef trade, an examination of the Ringside results over the last five years indicates that this has not always been the case.

Indeed, the Ringside figures show that price trends in the marts just occasionally reflect factory prices, and then only for heavier stock.

Take the first six months of 2013 for example. Factory base prices started the year at about €3.95/kg and by June were hitting the unheard of highs of €4.50- 4.60/kg.

However, mart prices on average only rose by 20c/kg to sit on a high of €2.23/kg in March. Yet exactly 12 months earlier in March of 2012 average mart prices across the entire steer spectrum was €2.43/ kg, with factory prices in that same period struggling to go from €4.00 to €4.10/kg.

The issue in 2013 seems to have been weather related, with poor grass growth as a result of low spring temperatures. Looking at the overall mart average price movements from 2012-2016, the range covers exactly 60c/kg, with prices varying from a low of €1.83/kg in August 2014 to a high of €2.43/kg in 2012. Yet that’s only half the story.

The reality is that when you begin to strip down the figures into individual beef breed prices things start to get interesting.

Obviously, sales prices for breeds such as the Charolais, Limousin, Belgian Blue, Aberdeen Angus and Hereford easily surpass that paid for dairy breeds such as the Friesian and Holstein.

The two strongest periods for prices in this study were from February 2012 to June 2012 and from February 2015 to July 2015, with the summer factory price spike of 2013 helping mart prices to just about match the spring surge of 2012.

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The weight category that scored highest for steers was the 300-399kg section. The top scoring breed was Charolais who hit a mart average of €2.98/kg in March of 2012 and falling back to €2.86/kg in May, both in that 300-399kg section.

Charolais dominated the more recent price spike of 2015 when in May of that year they hit €2.85/kg again in the 300-399/kg section. The top price paid for Belgian Blues was €2.81/kg and Limousins at €2.80/kg both in March of 2012.


The year 2012 continues to dominate in the 400-499kg section, with Charolais again hitting the top price at €2.71/ kg in March but right behind them are the Belgian Blues who hit €2.70/kg in June of that year.

Moving up the weights to the 600kg+ bullock we at last begin to see a connection between factory and mart prices. While March of 2012 saw the highest average price €2.38/kg paid, again for Charolais, that factory spike of June 2013 drove Belgian Blues to €2.36/kg.

Earlier that year, from April onwards, Charolais, Belgian Blues and Limousins saw their prices vary from €2.34/ kg to €2.35/kg as heavy cattle followed rising factory quotes.

Among the more traditional beef breeds, the Angus appears to have increased its price dominance over the Hereford breed by 10.5c/kg. The Holstein Friesian saw their best mart prices in the spring of 2012 when your 400-499kg bullock hit an average high of €2.13/kg, with Friesians in general making €2.00-2.08/kg to the middle of June 2012.

 After that their prices fell back to a point where in June of 2014 they only averaged from €1.36-1.54/kg.

The revival of factory prices in the spring/ summer of 2015 saw them recover to around the €2/kg mark, but as 2016 closed they had again fallen back to between €1.43-1.54/ kg.

 In contrast to the beef breeds, the highest Friesian prices were generally for stock in the 500-599kg and 600kg+ sections rather than lighter stock.

Online Editors