Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Farmers are facing a fight to sell bulls

BEST IN SHOW: Sharon Rothwell from Tinahely with the Best Beef Bullock at Tullow Mart Show and Sale last week. Also pictured (left to right) are Alo Corcoran, Stradbally, Paddy Murphy, New Ross and mart manager Eric Driver. Photo: Karl Mc Donough.
BEST IN SHOW: Sharon Rothwell from Tinahely with the Best Beef Bullock at Tullow Mart Show and Sale last week. Also pictured (left to right) are Alo Corcoran, Stradbally, Paddy Murphy, New Ross and mart manager Eric Driver. Photo: Karl Mc Donough.

Joe Healy

Ruby Walsh and Hurricane Fly might have had to fight all the way on Sunday to win a fourth Irish Champion Hurdle, but it's no different for farmers trying to sell bulls at the moment, particularly to certain factories.

The biggest offender seems to be Dunbia, where the insulting price of €3/kg is all that is being offered and paid for O grading Friesian bulls, and this includes O+ bulls.

Given that factories are more or less only willing to kill bulls from ongoing customers, it is a Catch 22 situation for finishers with bulls hitting the age limit as they just do not have much of a choice at the present time.

There is plenty of talk coming out of processors that the market only wants steers and heifers. Well, okay, this might very well be the case, but then why are we not seeing positive movement to the prices for steers and heifers?

Further down in this article you will read of the reported British price of almost €5/kg inclusive of VAT for the R4L steer. Our plants here are refusing to move off €4/kg.

They are winning with every category, but are they thinking of the bigger picture? Winter finishers are being so badly burned I fear for their willingness or desire to risk the same treatment.


I will agree that, while prices are disappointing, a meeting last week between the IFA leadership and Meat Industry Ireland has helped the situation and farmers have found it somewhat easier to get bulls killed. Prices for the Us vary from 360c/kg to 370c/kg in the main, with the Rs at 350-360c/kg.

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A few 50:50 mixes of R and U grades have made 370c/kg. O grades are generally making from 320c/kg to 340c/kg, with some Friesian Os already alluded to selling as low as 300c/kg.

The positive news on the live exports for young bulls may restore confidence to the sector, as well as providing competition. Steers are mainly at €4/kg.

Generally, quotes for heifers are at 410c/kg. But while a lot of the heifers are being bought at this, the word is that the aforementioned Dunbia are willing to pay up to 415c/kg of a base.

Cull cows are steady. The Us are making 340-350c/kg, while the Rs are at 320-345c/kg. O grade cows range from 300c/kg to 320c/kg and prices being paid for the P grade cows vary from 280c/kg to 300c/kg.

In Britain, the beef trade was reported as stable during the past week, with supplies adequate to meet demand.

Reported cattle prices from the AHDB eased in the past week, with GB R4L grade steers averaging at Stg385 p/kg dw (equivalent to 499c/kg incl VAT deadweight) for the week ended January 18.

In France, the R3 young bull price was steady at €4.11/kg inclusive of VAT, while the O3 grade cull cow was down 3c/kg to 348c/kg. Competition from Germany, who are primarily importing Polish beef, is also reported to be affecting trade.

Brisk trade and higher prices despite negativity

For the second week in a row, despite all the negativity with factory prices, the mart trade was brisk and showing significant improvements.

All classes of steers were up and by as much as 19c/kg for the plainer lighter bullocks under 400kg with an average price of €1.53 paid for these types.

The nicer lots were making from €2.05-2.65/kg which reflected a 12-15c/kg rise from the previous week. Steers between 400-500kg sold for €1.90-2.45/kg with the heavier lots selling between €1.90-2.30/kg, which was an improvement of 2-7c/kg.

Poorer quality lots moved at €1.49-1.68/kg. The light heifers were up by 1-6c/kg and making between €2.05-2.50/kg. Plainer types made an average of €1.80-1.83/kg. Good heifers over 500kg were back by anything from 2-17/kg at a range of €2.05-2.40/kg. Surprisingly, the plain heavy heifer was up by as much as 9c/kg, selling for €1.85-1.95/kg.

The weanling bulls were similar, with the lighter types improved by 4-14c/kg and making from €2.20-2.90/kg, while heavier types were down by 8c/kg at €2.05-2.50/kg.

Poorer bulls made from €1.65-1.80/kg. Heifer weanlings had a good week and were up by 4-20c/kg selling from €2.25-2.90/kg.

Kilkenny had 485hd for sale. Beef steers were in short supply while the store bullocks and heifers met a sharper trade than recent weeks. Steers over 600kg were selling for €1.85-2.35/kg or €550-760 over the weight. The 400-600kg lots sold for €1.50-2.43/kg.

Butcher types made from €1.90-2.20/kg. Stores were selling for €1.90-2.72/kg or €350-550 over. Continental cull cows were making from €1.40-2.03/kg. Friesian culls sold for €1.00-1.80/kg.

The plainer stock were proving difficult to move at Enniscorthy Mart but the better quality types were holding firm. Beef bullock prices ran from €1,250-1,680. This was reflective of €700-1,000 over their weight.

In the suck calf section the continental bulls among the 160 presented for sale sold for €350-500 while the heifers made from €250-430. Hereford and Angus bull calves were making from €240-440.

Dowra Mart had 460 cattle on offer last Saturday. Trade was improved for all classes of cattle on the day. Weanling heifers under 300kg made from €1.70-2.80/kg with a few fancy lots making up to €3.10/kg. Bulls from 300-400kg made from €1.70-2.80/kg, while the bulls over 400kg ranged from €1.70-2.40/kg.

A special clearance sale of sucklers saw cows with a calf at foot make from €1,400/unit up to a top price of €2,400 for a Charolais crossbred cow with twin bull calves at foot.

Balla Mart had 600 lots on offer. Quality store bullocks were up €50-70 on the previous week with heavy bullocks making from €500-1,000 with their weight or €1.49-2.75/kg.

A 10-year-old seventh-calf Limousin with a Limousin bull at foot topped the suckler section at €1,930.

A big entry of 670 cattle and 70 calves at Carnew Mart met with strong demand. In the calf ring the Friesian bulls were selling for €60-175. Continental bull calves made from €220-440. The heifers ranged from €180-410.

Bullocks at Maam Cross were selling for €1.95-2.45/kg. The heifers moved at €1.60-2.85/kg, while weanlings made from €1.60-3.08. Cull cows ranged from €1.25-1.85/kg. Top class bulls over 600kg up in Raphoe were making from €515-925 over the weight. Beef bullocks ranged from €615-810 over. Cull cows sold at prices of €700-1,740 each.

At Mayo/Sligo Mart the continental bullocks between 370-520kg were selling for €2.00-2.52/kg. The bull weanlings were making from €2.25-3.00/kg.

The 500-650kg steers at Tuam Mart were moving at €2.02-2.26/kg. The 380-460kg lots sold for €2.05-2.40/kg. Bulls over 400kg made from €2.19-2.30/kg.

Irish Independent