Most farmers do not stand a chance against the dealers in bidding rings
A CHANGE of circumstances this spring gave me more time to contemplate buying cattle for summer grazing. The hope was that if I could attend enough marts and had enough stamina then I would be able to pick up value. But I reckoned without the mart ring professionals.
I did have a game plan. This included buying some short-keep stores that could be slaughtered in June and early July, by which time beef prices might eventually rise. The more weight on the animal to catch this potential price rise the better.
I also planned to take a punt on some plainer stock on the chance of the live shipping trade to North Africa resuming during the summer. (The latest update is that the prospective shippers have orders for cattle but cannot get the cattle boats approved.)
If a few cattle needed meal feeding to fatten them at the end of the season, this would be OK as long as they came at the right price. And, of course, I needed a few better-looking cattle that would be seen from the house or the main road!
So into the jungle I dived. A quick look around the pens of cattle on offer showed that the 'hairy outlier', with plenty of growth potential, was a scarce article. Most of the mart cattle had been fed a lot of meal and were really too hot to start gaining weight once they hit the grass.
A lot of the others had designs on the cattle I would have liked to have brought home. And they seemed to have more courage and deeper pockets than I. It was very hard for a farmer to buy against the dealers.
Before the auctioneer could ask for a bid on a particular lot, a dealer would put out his hand as an indication: 'I want this one.' While the dealers might hang back for each other, the individual farmer buyer was always pushed to the limit.
And the dealers are everywhere. I went to a few different marts, only to see the ring exit gate manned by the same familiar faces. I thought the dealers would take a few days off during the Punchestown National Hunt Festival in late April, but not so.