PART of the reason for the surge in mart prices is the belief among farmers that the overhang of factory supplies from last autumn's protests has now gone, says Kilcullen Mart manager John Osborne.
"Men believe that supplies of finished stock going forward will be reduced going into spring/summer and that has bred optimism. They are banking on filling a want."
Filling that potential demand comes at a price, with the better continental forward store bullock here selling from €2.20/kg to a top of €2.45/kg, as in the case of four 510kg Charolais. Best of the Friesians were six, also at 510kg, that sold for €1.79/kg.
The biggest change that John sees this year concerns Angus and Hereford types. "With the decline in numbers coming from the suckler side, some of our customers seem to be moving to Hereford and Angus."
Has this move helped prices? "Definitely, back in the autumn your Angus bullock was doing well to make €I.70-1.80/kg - today €2/kg is what's expected."
John pointed out that at €2/kg those switching are making their factory cheques go further, plus overall finishing costs are lower and turnaround times are quicker.
The four movements rule was one of the issues that helped close factories last autumn. Still in place, it restricted the price of two 551kg Red Limousins to just €2.18/kg.
Will the mart trade continue to push on as the spring progresses?
"We are already seeing grass men buying and have prices ever slackened when there's spring grass to be eaten?"
A massive gamble on beef prices is playing out in the country's marts as farmers, dealers and feedlot buyers have ignored stagnant factory quotes to push the cattle trade to a new high this winter.
Finished bullocks are making up to €2.20/kg in the marts, which equates to a factory price of €4.10-4.15/kg for R-grade animals.
However, quotes in the slaughter plants remain rooted at €3.60-3.70/kg for bullocks and heifers.
The disparity between the mart and factory prices has fuelled rumours in the industry of 'sweetheart' deals being on offer.
Buoyant demand in the marts this week for all classes of stock resulted in exceptional prices being paid for cows, as well as for forward store bullocks and heifers.
This week's Ringside figures show that up to €2.20-2.40/kg was paid in the marts for good-quality forward store bullocks and heifers.