Farm Ireland

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Calves backlog rises as weather hits the trade

Shippers paying up to €50/hd out of yards but demand has slowed

ICMSA deputy president Lorcan McCabe
ICMSA deputy president Lorcan McCabe

Louise Hogan and Declan O'Brien

Trade for weaker Friesian calves remains poor due to large numbers and a weather-related shipping backlog.

Southern marts are expecting the volume of Friesians to peak in the next couple of weeks after a later calving season.

After the cancellation of three recent sailings, a backlog of calves is being reported this week.

While shippers are buying calves out of yards for €30-50/hd generally, they are far less anxious for numbers.

"Last week's storm has disrupted the trade and no question about it, but there is a backlog of calves," said Lorcan McCabe of ICMSA.

"Round here people are screaming to get calves away," said the Cavan dairy farmer.

Mr McCabe said shippers were paying a maximum of €50/hd for calves out of the yard, and back down to €30/hd for plainer and younger sorts.

Further south, shippers were paying between €20-65 a head in Bandon, Co Cork, while farmers were active for the stronger six-week-old calves that fetched from €80-150.

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Bandon mart manager Tom McCarthy said sales were up slightly on last year at around 2,000 a week, while the "big glut" of Friesians would land in the next two weeks.

In Skibbereen, Hereford and Angus calves were selling well at €150-€320.

Sean Leahy, manager in Corrin and Fermoy, reported Dutch-bound Friesians fetched €20-50, the heavier 55kg calves bound for Spain came in at €50-80.

Farmers paid from €80-130 for strong Friesian bull calves, while Hereford and Angus bull calves made from €120 to €250 for the more exceptional types.

"It will work itself out in the next two weeks as there will be less Friesian calves out there," said Mr Leahy.

In Wexford, New Ross mart manager Jim Bushe said the calf trade was improving but it was coming from a low point.

Jersey crosses

Friesian bulls for shipping made from €40-90, farmers bid stronger animals up to €170. Mr Bushe said trade was lively for stronger Angus and Hereford calves, while an exceptional Charolais bull fetched €530.

Prices for most Jersey crosses stood at €5-10. However, they dipped to €2 at one mart, which fell far below the cost of haulage and mart commission.

Exporter John Hallissey from JH Livestock Exports said around 20 exporters have agreed to meet in the coming days towards setting up an export body to represent the trade.

He said key issues they would be looking at ranged from health issues such as IBR to commercial matters like lairage.

Meanwhile, ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham said that any farmer considering buying dairy calves should demand a factory contract to include an agreed price before buying.

"The economics of dairy bull beef simply don't stack up. Even if you get the calves for free, they are still too expensive at today's prices and that's the reality," said Mr Graham.

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