Marts: Bullock prices rebound by up to €72/hd (pictures and prices from Granard mart)
There have been more bounces and falls in the mart trade over the last month than you'd find in one of those bouncy rubber balls your mother took off you in the kitchen as a child for fear "you'd break all-round you".
Unpredictability is the name of the game as the bullock trade continues its end-of-year price odyssey.
Five weeks ago in this section I was reporting on the plight of dairy cross stock that, as the weather turned wet, were turning up at sales rings across the country looking worse for wear and meeting a trade that was €100/hd less than the previous week.
The following week, lighter stock in general fell by €70-90/hd as extra numbers began to hurt the trade.
There then followed two weeks where the trade bobbed around a bit but didn't bounce or dive to any great extent.
However, two weeks ago the 500-599kg bullock took a serious hit as the better animal at this weight shed 15c/kg on average or from €75-90/hd.
Last week, the bullock trade "bounced" with the 500-599kg top quarter animal recovering 5c/kg or €25-30hd of that 15c/kg fall.
Overall bullock price averages rose last week by between 1-8c/kg while in the specifics of the ringside table the top quarter of the 300-399kg section shot up by 18c/kg or from €54-72/hd.
Parking overall averages for a second, last week saw some individually very strong prices paid at some marts.
Among these were the €3.00-3.10/kg reported as having been paid for a selection of 550-620kg Charolais bullocks at Roscommon.
I can't claim to have seen them but it does prove that on any given day, price is like beauty and pride - it's all a matter of perception.
Ballinrobe was another mart where prices improved last week for both bullocks and heifers.
Here prices at the top end of 475-505kg section averaged from €2.41-2.53/kg which, while stronger than the ringside average at the top end of the 400-500kg division by 7c/kg, probably accurately reflects the realities of the demand and the quality on show.
However, I'm more interested here with the effect stronger prices for better cattle can have on more ordinary type stock.
In the case of Ballinrobe, as reported in the mini mart section opposite, once the audience had been warmed up by that rising tide of prices for the better bullock, the lesser type animal also improved.
A batch of 475kg Aberdeen Angus bullocks that made €2.27/kg being a very good example.
Not so long ago the Angus bullock was struggling in many places to make €2.00/kg.
The common denominator across all these examples is of course the fact that they in all probability were bought by winter finishers or feedlot owners with the intention of turning them out at some point over the winter as beef.
Figures from UK trade data sources, as released though the British government's Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board, show that for the first four months of 2017 imports of fresh and frozen Irish beef rose by 5pc.
So with our trade to Britain actually increasing since the vote on Brexit, those cattle bought at Roscommon or Ballinrobe last week may yet look cheap.
Many Munster areas have seen a sharp decline in suckler herds recently as the dairy dollar exerts its influence on farming choices. But there are still enough men even here for true suckler stock to command better than €3/kg for weanling bulls. As was the case of three 275kg Charolais bulls who sold for €3.16/kg or the 300kg Limousin who saw the hammer drop at €3.06/kg.
Weanling bulls under 300kg made from €250-700/hd over their weight as supplies were seen to tighten. Among the weanling heifers, prices ranged from €240-550 with €/kg. In the bullock ring, those up to 400kg sold from €350-750 with the €/kg while in the 400-500kg division, prices went from €350-750 over the weight. Among the heavier 500-600kg and 600kg+ weights, prices topped out at €830 over the €/kg. Cull cows sold from a base of €350 for feeder types to €690/hd with the weight for factory types.
This was a large sale and plenty of quality about, with bullocks in particular seeing a flying trade. The trade for the forward store could justifiably be described as “awesome” in places. Bullock prices averaged €2.30/kg but it was in forward store trade that overdraft limits were properly tested as a string of 550-620kg Charolais made in and around the €3.00/kg mark to a top of €3.10/kg. Prices for heifers ranged from €2.17/kg to a top of €2.56/kg. Among the dry cows demand was also strong with a full clearance as prices hit a top of €1.93 off a €1.49/kg average.
This was another sale where trade for the forward store bullock was very strong. Examples included a 535kg Limousin who hit €2.54/kg while €2.44/kg was the price at which the hammer fell on three 495kg Charolais. A rising tide lifts all boats and by the time the batch of 485kg Aberdeen Angus came through the audience was well warmed up with the hammer this time falling at €2.27/kg. The heifer trade mimicked the bullocks with the top end of the 475-505kg Limousin and Charolais market seeing prices from €2.41-2.53/kg. Top of the heifer weanling trade was the €2.80/kg given for a 395/kg Charolais while a 365kg Charolais hit the top for the bulls at €3.01/kg.
David White noted that with factories squeezing cull cow prices, the dairy cow straight from the parlour was at times now struggling to make €/kg. The price of the better dairy cow ranged from €250-300/hd along with the €/kg while beef cows sold from €400-500/hd along with their weight. Among the bullocks, Friesians sold from €1.50-1.70/kg with both continental bullocks and heifers from 450-550kg. In the dairy sale department calved stock made from €1,200-1,450/hd with those in calve much the same.
Trade here was improved with quality cattle in demand. Store bullocks under 500kg sold from €1.90-2.75/kg while heavier stock made from €1.80-2.40/kg. In the weanling ring bull, heifer prices largely matched each other across the various weight divisions with those under 300kg selling from €1.70-3.30/kg with the 300-400kg heifer or bull making
from €1.70-3.00/kg. There was a divergence on price above 500kg with bulls averaging from €2.00-2.50/kg while heavier heifers sold from €1.80-2.30/kg. Dry cows sold to a top of €2.10/kg off a €1.70/kg base while feeder types made from €1.00-1.80/kg.
A good entry of stock saw plenty of farmer buyer activity with some limited buying by shippers of lighter type bull weanlings. In the heifer ring, which do you choose, the single 510kg Limousin at €2.25/kg or the two at 432kg who made €2.09/kg? Maybe you’d prefer the idea of a possible easier calver, in which case €2.05/kg would have bought you that 535kg Aberdeen Angus. Moving to the weanling trade, bull prices here included a 315kg Charolais who made €2.79/kg with a 325kg Limousin seeing the hammer at €2.46/kg.
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