Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 March 2018

Factories: Heifers may hit €4.15/kg


The bullock trade recovered last week
The bullock trade recovered last week
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Factory bosses were at pains this week to give the impression that base prices were steady at €3.90/kg for bullocks and €4.00/kg for heifers, the reality is there is more to be had. If you've got in-spec finished bullocks €3.95/kg appears to be where the real-time price is at, while the heifer trade is seeing prices as high as €4.10/kg floated.

These prices tend to be more prevalent the further north you go with some factories in the south appearing to be off the pace when you initially open the conversation on pricing.

All factories however seem to have "a want for heifers" to the point where one west of Ireland finisher said that "They (the factories) are dead keen for heifers and €4.15 may yet happen this week". Prices for Aberdeen Angus are reported by IFA's Angus Woods as having hit €4.20/kg over the weekend.

Last week's kill set yet another record for this year at 40,541. This kill figure was arrived at after some plants worked on Saturday.

Trade for bulls sees under-16 month stock being base priced from €3.90-4.00/kg, with prices for their heavier under-24 month comrades also pushing up. Despite prices for cull cows continuing to push forward at the marts factory prices for cows continue to remain stable.

Prices have improved but numbers are at the point where everyone associated with the business from the factory boss to the dog in the yard is waiting for the week when the numbers go off the edge of a cliff. When that happens the Christmas holidays won't come quick enough for the factories.

Our reputation as a green beef producing island is built on grass finishing with the dairy sector's male progeny contributing immensely to that image and tonnage.

Recent commentary that dairy farmers were not in the "business of meat sales" delivered an industry wake-up call.

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It raises the uncomfortable question of what the powers that be in the beef industry might do to offset the consequences of any further deterioration in the conformation and size of stock coming on to the market from that quarter.

Mart Trade

1 Ennis

Nearly half the 800 cattle on offer here were cull cows. While it underlines the absolute efficiency that is the hallmark of those in the dairy sector strong prices also underline the cull cow's importance as a source of primarily manufacturing beef. Prices for dairy beef saw up to €1.44/kg paid for heavy Friesian cows with the more storish type Friesian making from €1.30-1.56/kg. The better conformation cull cow hit €2.02/kg as in the case of a 650kg Charolais, while a 755kg Limousin saw the hammer at €2.04. Trade for bullocks and heifers was strong, particularly for the better types.

2 Ballinasloe

Prices for bullocks averaged €2.20/kg with a batch of 355kg Charolais animals ringing the bell for top price at €2.66/kg. The average price in the weanling ring was €2.16/kg with a 345kg Limousin achieving the top price of €2.67/kg. Round prices for cull cows went from 535/hd to €1,260/hd.

3 Kilkenny

George Candler described his trade for bullocks as "sharper", with the forward continental, who was not overly plentiful, hitting a top call of €2.71/kg, while heavier 600kg+ bullocks sold from €1.70-2.30/kg. The better Friesian bullock met an improved trade with his prices ranging from €1.70-1.95/kg. A good showing of cull cows saw Friesian types sell from .80c/kg to €1.70/kg, while continental cows made from €1.30-2.29/kg.

4 Castlerea

The large entry of heifers here saw improved prices for quality store and forward heifers with 390kg Limousins at one end of the weight spectrum making €2.69/kg, while at the heavier end 585kg Charolais stock came into €2.39/kg. Among the cull cows the better suckler continental types clocked in at between €1.60-2.06/kg, while cows with calves at foot sold from €1,040-1,720/hd. Prices for quality weanlings were maintained with a 270kg Charolais bull hitting one of the better returns at €3.20/kg, however plainer stock were a "harder sell".

5 Carnew

A large entry of stock saw prices hold firm with beef and forward bullocks selling from €650-980/hd over the €/kg. Continental store bullocks made from €470-820/hd over their weight, while Friesian bullocks made from €220-560/hd over their weight. Beef heifers sold from €550-980/hd over the weight with store heifers making from €320-780/hd over the weight. In the calf ring Friesian bulls sold from €60-190/hd, while continental bulls made from €225-460/hd. Continental heifer calves sold from €180-440/hd.

6 Baltinglass

Prices for both bullocks and heifers were reckoned to be up by €30-40/hd here as buyers intensified their efforts to fill their quotas before the Christmas shut out. In the bullock ring a 443kg Charolais made €2.14/kg, however a 465kg Hereford at €2.25/kg might have been a better medium-term bet. The South Devon breed isn't overly popular in Ireland but at €2.17/kg for 530kg I'd be tempted to see how we'd get on. Demand for weanlings was strong with top prices averaging from €2.25-2.50/kg.

7 Balla

This was a big sale given the day of the year but trade was reported as "good all round for quality stock". Store bullocks under 400kg averaged €2.38/kg, while the 400-500kg bullock averaged €2.23/kg. Best price of the day among the bullocks however was 2.51/kg as given for a March 2016 born 495kg Charolais. That said the biggest individual cheque of the day was written for an 810kg Charolais at €1,950 which works out at €2.41/kg. The heifer trade also saw some cracking prices including the €2.66/kg paid for an August 2016 born 395kg Charolais.

Indo Farming