Farm Ireland

Wednesday 22 November 2017

What's going on in the marts? Cattle trade baffling even the experts

Elphin Mart. Weanling Bull Sales. Faces at the Mart. Photo Brian Farrell
Elphin Mart. Weanling Bull Sales. Faces at the Mart. Photo Brian Farrell
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

The observations of auctioneers can give a good insight into the psychology behind some cattle buyers’ purchasing decisions.

“If it was all about the money and certainty they’d sell the farm and bank the money,” was the opinion of John Curran of Carrick-on-Suir Mart on the cattleman’s never-ending battle with market forces.

Another auctioneer, who wished to remain nameless, told me that “a lot of men appear to be operating on a budget.

They might want to buy the 450-550kg bullock but once the price moves up they fall back and are buying lighter, cheaper stock.”

Breed LMX .DOB 16/04/16. Weight 410kg . Price €1000. Photo Roger Jones.
Breed LMX .DOB 16/04/16. Weight 410kg . Price €1000. Photo Roger Jones.

Looking at last week’s Ringside figures we see that the lighter 300-399kg bullock dropped back 5c/kg on average to €2.59/kg, while better made comrade at this weight rose 4c/ kg on average or from €12-16/ hd to €2.96/kg.

That’s a 37c/kg difference in price between the average and top conformation bullock at this weight or from €111-€148/ hd, while the difference from top quarter to bottom quarter is more than twice that at 79c/ kg which translates into a difference of €237-€315/hd.

In the 600kg+ forward store/ factory bullock category, the price differences drop to less than half this level.

The overall average is €2.24/ kg, while the top quarter is just 16c/kg stronger at €2.40/ kg, with the bottom quarter at €2.06/kg. In prices per head, the overall average is €1,344/hd; the top quarter average is €1,440 and the bottom quarter average is €1,224/hd.

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How do you explain the difference in the figures for those lighter cattle of €237-315/hd as opposed to the finished animal’s price spread of just €216/hd top to bottom? I am at a loss to know.

One possible reason is that those doing the buying at those lighter weights just don’t realise that when their newly bought stock turn into factory cattle the margins get an awful lot finer.

Hereford bull. Price €230. Photo: Roger Jones
Hereford bull. Price €230. Photo: Roger Jones

There are other sums that can be done on where money is being made or lost up and down the tables but in the final analysis the cattle trade is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill’s analysis of Russia, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.

Just for the record, that 600kg+ bullock fell 1c/kg last week which in effect sees his price remain stable, while at the same time the recent positive moves in factory prices saw the poorer conformation animal at this weight gain 1c/kg.

Carnew Mart, April 8. Lot 812 cow and calf. DOB 15/08/11 & 15/02/17. Price €1,570.
Carnew Mart, April 8. Lot 812 cow and calf. DOB 15/08/11 & 15/02/17. Price €1,570.

I wrote last week that I was not prepared to read too much into a 3c/kg fall a fortnight ago in prices across the 400-499kg and 500-599kg sections.

So it has proved with the overall averages in both remaining unchanged, but significantly the bottom quarter in both weight divisions bounced back by 4c/kg or from €16-24/hd, leaving them improved overall when averaged over the two weeks.

Carnew Mart, April 8. Lot 40. Weight 460kg. DOB 28/02/16. Price €1,000. Breed CHX. Photo Roger Jones.
Carnew Mart, April 8. Lot 40. Weight 460kg. DOB 28/02/16. Price €1,000. Breed CHX. Photo Roger Jones.

Marts Roundup


Last Friday’s sale saw an easing in numbers following two weeks of very big sales but there was no let up in prices. “We had €3/kg given for 250kg Angus bullocks on Friday, but €1.90 to €2.50/ kg was probably more typical across the board,” said mart manager, John Curran. He also noted that there appears to be an abundance of 350-400kg types about, with a “scatter” in the of 400-480kg section. However, the 500kg bullock seemed scarce.


Thomas Potterton put some comparative averages together last week that show his sales for the month of April to date are largely in line with price averages for 2016. In the 300-400kg bullock section this month’s average is €2.32/kg as against €2.34/kg for April 2016. Similarly in the 400-500kg section, the April 2016 average was €2.22/kg, while so far this April it’s a shade better at €2.25/kg. Last week’s sale saw a continuation of these prices, while among the 600kg+ bullocks prices averaged €2.12/kg, with the top of the market being €2.30/kg.


There was another one of Gerry Connellan’s special sales last week. This time it was heifers, which attracted plenty of interest from both home and abroad. Strong heifers in the in the 450-550kg section saw 450kg Aberdeen Angus make €2.28/kg, with a 470kg Limousin a shake easier at €2.26/kg. A 540kg Limousin came in at €2.20/kg. Prices for those in the 595-660kgs weight bracket ranged from €2.49/kg for 620kg through to €2.60/kg for three Charolais at 660kg, and to €2.63/kg for 595kg.


The mart hosted its largest sale of the year to date last week. Heifer prices ranged from €290-670/hd over the €1/kg for those in the store category, while bullocks the range was from €230-658/hd again in the 400-500kg weight range. Weanling heifers made from €350 to €675 over the €1/kg, with the bulls making from €250- 660 over the weight.


Numbers were big and with good numbers of buyers present, prices remained good to firm. The 600+kg bullock sold from €1.90-2.30/kg, with the 500- 599kg section seeing prices up to €2.70/kg off a base of €1.70/kg. The more storeish bullock in the 400-499kg section and those under 400kgs both averaged from €1.60- 2.80/kg. Beef heifers saw prices work off a base of €2/kg up to a top of €2.60/kg, while butchers heifers ranged from €1.80-2.90/ kg. Cull cow numbers were strong but prices appeared to harden if in the range from €1.80-2.40 as farmers, feeders and specialised finishers got stuck in.


There were also plenty of customers at Ballymote last week, with a strong trade reported. Bullocks under 400kgs drew top dollar, with quality lots making €2.88-3.56/ kg. Among the top prices was a 480kg Limousin at €2.62/kg, followed a 480kg Charolais also at €2.62/kg, with a 490kg Aberdeen Angus close in at €2.57/kg. Among the top end of the 600kg+ bullock section were a 600kg Charolais at €2.45/ kg, with two lots of 610-615kgs Aberdeen Angus making from €2.24-2.31/kg.


 Numbers were also big at Listowel, where the typical Friesian cull cow made €1.00-1.41/kg, while some of the better made Friesians sold in the mid €1.50s per kg. This left the top of the cull cow market on the day to a 700/kg Charolais at €1.60kg, and a 725kg Friesian at €2.00/kg. In the bullock ring 400-500kg continental stores made €2.00-2.20/kg, with both Aberdeen Angus and Hereford also in this ball park price wise. Better made Friesians under 400kgs hit €2.00/kg.

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