Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 February 2018

Mart trade: It’s a game of two halves at the cattle marts

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

THIS week’s Ringside report is, in sporting parlance, ‘a game of two halves’ where heifers and bullocks are concerned.

Two weeks ago the runaway winner in the league table of top performers was the 600kg+ bullock who gained 17c/kg or a minimum of €102/hd.

However, seven days is a long time in the cattle business and last week saw these heavy bullocks give up an average of 11c/ kg or €72/hd of that gain. The reasons lie in the stagnation of steer beef prices which this week again continue generally in the €3.75-3.80/kg zone.

The trade for factory heifers is more positive with beef processors continuing to favour them, with prices from €3.90- 3.95/kg last week. Specialist orders for Hereford and Angus may see these breeds squeezing a bit more.

One way or the other your average 600kg heifer rose 21c/ kg or €126/hd following her 7c/kg fall of the previous week.

So over the two weeks she’s up €84/hd, while her 600kg steer sibling is up just €40/hd.

Looking closer you realise the trade is – as several of the mart managers mentioned in my mini mart reports – all about quality.

The top quarter of heifers in the 600kg division gained the most in the heifer and bullock tables, with a hugely impressive rise of 30c/kg or €180/hd.

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The knock-on effect sees the remaining sections of the heifer table move strongly upward by anything from 10c/kg or €40- 49/hd in the 400-499kg section.

Meanwhile, a 16c/kg bounce in the 350-399kg section equated to a rise of €56-64/hd.

Add in the average increase of €10-20/hd seen in these sections two weeks ago and the heifer trade is doing very nicely.

Not doing so nicely last week were the bullocks who fell, as already mentioned, not only at the heavy end, but right across the board.

The biggest average loss in c/kg was the 300-399kg who dropped 15c/kg on average and 24c/kg in the top quarter. This translates into price reductions of €45-60/hd and €84-96/hd respectively.

It’s a lot of money at any time but it’s getting into serious money in small cattle.

Staying with bullocks, the 400-499kg animal was effectively static on average, gaining just 1c/kg.

But here again the big losers were among the better quality animals, with prices falling by 9c/kg or €36-45/hd. In contrast,poorer quality animal rose by 7c/kg.

That still leaves an average price difference of 81c/kg from the top to the bottom or from €324-404/hd in this section.

In the 500-599kg section last week the top quarter averaged €2.24/kg as against the poorer animal’s €1.60/kg. This 64c/kg difference equates to €320-383/hd. These are big numbers, and in the context of slim beef margins, you’d wonder which or any is the right decision when buying.

Mart roundup


Typical of the bullock trade at Cahir last week were two lots of Angus - one at 580kgs the other 557kgs - who made €1,155/hd and €1,105/hd respectively. Then there were the two Herefords at 560kgs who made €1,060/hd versus the two Shorthorns of 542kgs at €1,040/hd. In the heifer ring the general run of prices was about €1.95-2.05/kg, with two 450kg Herefords making €900 being typical of the trade. Six “well fleshed” Jersey heifers who weighted 519kgs made a very interesting €860/hd. Feeder cows sold from a €1/kg to €200 with the weight, with beef cows selling from €200 to €300 with their weight.


There was a “sweet” trade for quality stock at Ballinrobe on Wednesday, although plainer cattle were a harder sell. While there were stand out prices – such as the €2.78/kg paid for 380kg Aberdeen Angus bullocks and the €2.48/kg paid for a 555kg Limousin heifer – the one that struck home with me was the Friesian bullock at 420kgs who made €2.21/kg, which made me wonder what the spring will bring. The top of the dry cow trade was a 740kg Belgian Blue that made €1,580. Among the weanling bulls the top was €1,000 or €2.70/kg paid for a 370kg Limousin.


Reports from Ballinakill also indicated an air of spring as plenty of customers got stuck in. Among the top prices were those paid for lighter continental store bullocks that averaged from €2.10-3.00/kg. Heavy bullocks made €1.95-2.35/kg, while forward stores sold from €2.05-2.60/kg. Among the heifers beef animals came in at €2.00-2.30/kg, with store heifers on €2.20- 2.85/kg. Weanling bulls made €2.00-2.55/ kg, with weanling heifers making from €2.10/kg to €2.90/kg. The top of the cull cows made €2.05/kg.


There were big numbers of Friesians on offer at Kilkenny last Thursday. This resulted in continental breeds meeting a very lively trade. In the 600kg+ bullock section prices ranged from €1.80/kg to €2.30/kg. Meanwhile, in the 500-600kg division, and the 400-500kg section, average sale prices ranged from €1.50/kg to €2.60/kg. Beef heifers made from 2.00/ kg to €2.50/kg, with continental cull selling for €1.25-2.05/kg. Friesian culls sold from 0.75c/kg to 1.75/kg.


Demand at Castlerea on Thursday saw prices strengthen especially for store heifers and bullocks, with prices up €20- 30/hd. Among those heading home with that €20-30/hd extra were the sellers of a 480kg Charolais who made €1,200, and the sellers of 490kg Aberdeen Angus that made €1,155/hd – that’s €2.50/kg and €2.36/kg respectively. Heifers also saw their share of the action with some of the Limousins from 420-505kgs making €2.61- 2.96/kg. The better quality dry cow pushed up to €1.80/kg, while the best of the weanling bulls saw 2.90kg Charolais make €2.95/kg. Meanwhile, a 270kg Limousin raised the bar for the heifers to €3.11/kg.


Up in Raphoe trade was bolstered by farmer and factory agent competition, with quality the major factor in price. The price spreads across the various categories were as follows: heifers €2.10-2.85/kg, bulls €2.20-3.10/kg, and bullocks €2.10-2.60/ kg. Dry cows sold from €640 to a very impressive €1,760 per unit.

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