Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

Mart trade: Bullock prices take a hit in majority of categories

Inhouse entertainment at Castlrea Mart. Photo Brian Farrell
Inhouse entertainment at Castlrea Mart. Photo Brian Farrell
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

“WE breed them and then we sell them — it’s other men’s choice to buy them”: that was one dairy farmer’s take on the continuing strong trade for Friesian and Friesian cross cattle at marts, particularly across the south.

Another take on it came from a finisher who, spotting the influx of black and whites, commented: “ The dairymen win again”.

Even up in the northern of the country, the decline in numbers of quality stock is being keenly felt.

As John O’Hanlon of Ballymahon mart said, the “quality lots are getting scarce” with more plain cattle around. These comments reflect the trend that as the dairy sector continues to expand and take in more and more entrants from the suckler side, true beef breed choice at marts is becoming increasingly limited.

This is possibly a discussion for another day, but with the dairy expansion coupled with an ageing suckler farmer population I can only see the numbers going one way.

Away from what may or may not happen to our suckling tradition, at the coalface of the cattle trade the price for bullocks appears to be going through some choppy waters at present.

With a few exceptions, prices for bullocks two weeks ago were at a standstill.

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However, last week seven of the 12 averages in the bullock section fell. It’s not entirely easy to read this because the pattern of movement is very broken.

The 500-599kg section, for example, sees all averages fall from 1c/kg for the lesser quality bullock to 5c/kg or €25-30/hd for the better animal. This has led to an overall average decline of €15-18/hd or 3c/kg.

Yet there is positive movement both above and below this weight. The 600kg+ bullock went up 2c/kg on average last week, with the figures indicating general stability. This stability is down to the continued good weather on one hand and stable factory prices on the other. Stability Going back down the weight table that stability seems to be lacking in places.

The overall average price of the 300-400kg bullock fell by a modest 1c/kg or €3-4/hd last week but the poorer animal at this weight saw his price slip by 5c/kg which is €15-20/hd while the better bullock rose 4c/kg or €12-16/hd. In the 400-500kg section the musical chairs saw the overall average improve by 2c/kg to €2.19/kg or from €876-1,093/hd.

I’m making more of a big deal about what is happening in these two sections than what is happening above these weights because I believe you are now starting to see the influence of increased dairy numbers coming through.

Above this weight the fall off in price isn’t so much quality related as available numbers. You can’t buy what isn’t there, with several mart managers saying the numbers of heavier 500kg+ forward stores have fallen away quite dramatically recently.

Marts Roundup


AFTER his sale last Thursday, John O’Hanlon was of the opinion that some grass finishers were becoming concerned that numbers of quality stores were starting to dry up. “Trade was strong and brisk but quality lots are getting scarce”, he said. Among those quality lots were Charolais and Limousins from 420-430kgs, the tops of whom made from €2.74-2.55/ kg. In the over 24 months category, top prices went from €2.81-3.04/kg for 535- 575kgs. Those whose age possibly pushed them out of spec saw Charolais stock of 775kgs make €2.19/kg with 615kg on €2.39, while the same weight Aberdeen Angus made €2.24/kg.


Trade was very lively as beef bullocks sold from €680-1,100/hd over their weight with beef and butchers heifers even stronger, starting again at €680 over the €/kg but pushing onto to a very impressive €1,400/hd over the €/kg. Store bullocks made from €470-810 with €/kg, with lighter Friesian stores selling between €170-400 with their weight. Heavy Friesian bullocks made from €500-750 over the €/kg, while beef cows came in at between €430-800 with €/kg. Feeding cows were making from €170-470 with €/kg.


Trade on Saturday saw prices hold well with lighter store bullocks under 400kgs making €2.71/kg on average but topping out at €3.06/kg. In the 400-500kg section the average was €2.37 with the top of the market here seeing €2.66/kg. As at Ballymahon, numbers of two year old/500kg+bullocks were not plentiful with their price here averaging €2.26/kg. At the weanling sale held earlier in the week, bulls from 200-350kgs averaged €2.84/kg, with those from 350- 450 on €2.56/kg. Heifer weanlings from 200-350 averaged €2.85/kg with those from 350-450 averaging €2.60/kg


The continuing sunny weather helped keep trade very buoyant. Among the prices for bullocks were 445-460kg Limousins who made from €2.49-2.58/kg. In the heifer ring a 520kg Charolais hit €2.40, while the strength and breeding potential of the Friesian in the dairy sector saw €2.75/kg paid for exactly the same weight (520kgs) Friesian heifer.


Numbers and prices held well on the day and, as elsewhere, the lighter the animal the greater the per kg price. Two 340kg Limousin bullocks made €2.80/kg while two at 500kgs made €2.46/kg, while the top of the market for Friesians was €2.00/kg. Among the heifers, the prices went from €1.78/kg for a 575kg Friesian to €2.67/kg for a 300kg Charolais. The trade for cull cows saw a 945kg Shorthorn make €1.79/kg, while a 610kg Friesian changed hands at €1.52/kg. The better quality Limousin or Charolais from 650kgs up made from €1.55-1.67/kg.


The weanling trade was reported as “very strong” with bulls under 300kgs making from €1.80-3.60/kg. Moving into the 300-400kg section prices went from €1.90-3.30 while above these weights prices ranged from €2.00-2.80/kg. Among the dry cows the tops sold from €1.80- 2.25/kg while stores made from €1.30- 2.00/kg.


Prices were maintained with strong demand for forward stores and heavy cattle. In the Hereford and Angus section, the prices for the 540-580kg bullock ran from €2.10-2.20/kg. Moving to the continentals a Charolais at 570/kg made €2.33/kg, with a 450kg Limousin securing €2.56/kg.

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