Milton’s line “they also serve who stand and wait” was quoted not once but twice by mart managers over the weekend.
While mart prices steadied last week, partially because of drought concerns, managers noted a lack of buyers.
“Some are just waiting for the mart to open before they buy again,” said Michael Harty of Central Auctions.
On the reopening, Michael said: “There’s no guarantee cattle will be cheaper or dearer but the drought has taken its toll, plus a lot of men have their cattle bought.”
Michael reckoned the hit on prices to be €50-60/hd week on week. The Ringside averages do show some of the bullocks back that €50-60/hd, with the better 400-499kg and 500-599kg bullock dropping 13c/kg and 8c/kg respectively.
However, the continued stability in factory prices saw the overall average of the 600kg+ steer advance 7c/kg to €1.87/kg — with lesser-conformation animals up 23c/kg. Those bottom-quarter steers also moved up significantly in the 500-599kg section, putting on 11c/kg.
Reports across the country also indicate that the cull cow market has improved, with some managers calculating that mart prices being paid for R-grades would require the factory price to be €3.30/kg to cover costs as opposed to the €3.00-3.10/kg being quoted by agents to farmers.
Part of the reason for this improvement, however, appears to be that there is a strong demand north of the border for good quality culls.
As to how we go from here, Gerry Finnerty of Ennis said that with marts reopening those expecting “the new normal to be like the old normal”, are in for a shock.
“Social distancing, restricted numbers of buyers, drop and go protocols for sellers — this is where we’re at. If these are abused marts will close or be closed.”
Maurice Brosnan was among a number of managers keen to credit the Department of Agriculture officials’ efforts in getting marts reopened, saying: “I’ve had my battles, we all have, but these are the lads who have to try make this work for everyone.”
On a separate topic, I’ve had reports of “excitement” breaking out around some online sales where the system takes as the final bid the one from a buyer who has previously not bid on the lot about to be knocked down.
The issue seems to be that when two final bids are the same the system appears to favour the newcomer.
Numbers were down here, with George Candler also reporting “a more challenging” trade as concerns about grass availability among buyers hurt prices.
In the 600kg+ bullock section, prices averaged from €1.70-2.10/kg, with those from 500-600kg making €1.80-2.45/kg. Your 400-500kg store sold from €1.60-2.45/kg, with lighter steers making up to €2.40/kg.
Among the heifers beef and forward types sold from €1.80-2.35/kg, with lighter types making €1.70-2.50/kg. Friesian cull cows sold from €1.00-1.40/kg, with continentals making €1.25-2.05/kg.
Numbers were also easier here but stronger demand saw a “lively trade”.
Beef bullocks sold from €620-1,025/hd over the €1/kg. Heavy Friesian bullocks averaged €380-520 with the weight. Continental stores sold from €470-720 over the €1/kg, with Hereford and Angus types making from €335-530 over.
Light Friesian stores sold from €125-330 over the weight. Continental store heifers made €475-710 with the €1/kg, with Angus and Hereford types averaging €325-480 with the weight, while beef heifers sold from €545-880/hd over the €1/kg.
Among those “winning” at present are the men with the better “tight-bodied forward continental cows”, according Maurice Brosnan.
Driven on by online buyers from north of the border, their prices here reached €2.21/kg.
Those same men also bid a 670kg O-grade Angus bullocks into €1,410 or €2.10/kg, while 400-500kg Angus bullocks averaged around €2/kg, with your nice continental bullock at this weight selling from €2.20-2.30/kg.
Strong demand among shippers and farmers saw Angus bull calves range from €210-220/hd, with the tops seeing €250/hd.
“There’s no guarantee cattle will be cheaper or dearer. But the drought has taken its toll, plus a lot of men have their cattle bought,” said Michael Harty on how the market may change once marts re-open.
Prices among the bullocks included two 335kg Limousins at €800/hd; a further four 418kg Limousins averaged €900/hd, with a 535kg Charolais making €1,090.
Among the heifers the selection included one 505kg Charolais at €1,130, with another at 460kg seeing €1,130 — all of which left me wondering about that 530kg Limousin at just €1,030.
Stephen Hannon reported a shade less in numbers with trade “good enough”, with your good 400kg weanling bull coming into €1,000-1,050/hd.
On the weanling heifer side the good one was capable of €2.80/kg, with Stephen saying that the “really smart one” made up to €3/kg.
The issue of age is always a consideration with prices here for 500kg stock which could be pressing on towards or above 30 months, ranging from €1,100-1,150.
Gerry Finnerty reckons that once the marts get into full swing online sales will continue. Last week a share of the star performers online here were in the cull cow bracket, with Northern online buyers very active.
Gerry reported heavy well-fleshed culls to be very solid at prices from €1.70-1.90/kg, with feeding cows €1.50-1.65/kg.
On the heifer side those suitable for feeding averaged €2.00-2.15/kg.
Averages here in the 300-399kg bullock section saw the better one settling at €2.14/kg, with those of lesser quality coming into €1.45/kg.
In the 400-499kg division your better animal averaged €2.11/kg, with those in the bottom quarter averaging €1.49/kg.