Farm Ireland

Friday 20 April 2018

'Rings of fire' as mart trade hits a new high

Store heifers and bullocks still commanding exceptional prices

and Daniel Moloney with Joe
O'Keeffe from Clare at this
year's Tullamore Show and
AIB National Livestock Show
Rachel and Daniel Moloney with Joe O'Keeffe from Clare at this year's Tullamore Show and AIB National Livestock Show

Declan O'Brien and  Darragh McCullough

The cattle trade is still on fire despite bigger sales and attempts by factory buyers to pull prices.

Tight supplies of heavy bullocks and heifers, along with strong farmer buying of stores, have helped push prices to near record levels. It has been a similar story in the weanling rings, where farmer and shipper competition for stock has been intense.

Factory buyers signalled a drop in beef quotes for this week but this failed to hit the trade. A restricted supply of finished bullocks and heifers forced factory agents to compete strongly for stock. This trend also ensured that demand for fat cows held firm, with between €200 and €400 over the €1/kg on offer for good quality animals.

Heifers and bullocks in Roscommon Mart were €20/hd dearer on Friday. In Carnew Mart, Co Wicklow, on Saturday, double the number of cattle were on offer compared to the previous week but the trade remained exceptionally strong.

Good quality, heavy bullocks made €550 to €700 along with their weight at Roscommon. Mart manager Michael Naughton said the trade was mainly driven by farmers but factory buyers were also active. The general run for heavy heifers was €500-€650 over, with €300 to €500 along with the €1/kg paid for store heifers. Heavy bullocks generally made €1.90-2.30/kg in Carnew, with Friesians making €1.75-1.80/kg. Some very fancy prices were paid for store bullocks. A nice 399kg Charolais sold for €970, with one 554kg Belgian Blue making €1,355 or €2.45/kg. Beef heifers generally sold for €1.90 to €2.30/kg at Carnew but the store trade was even stronger. The majority sold for €2.20-2.50/kg or €360 to €450 along with the €1/kg.

Competition between farmers and shippers resulted in a lively sale for weanlings. Exceptional lots made up to €3/kg but Limousin and Charolais bulls generally made €2.20-€2.30/kg, with €2.10-2.40/kg paid for heifers.

The strength of the trade has provided some remarkable stories. Among these was the tale of a five-year-old bullock, weighing 1,055kg, which sold at Delvin Mart recently for €2,080.

The same farmer had a 975kg four-year-old bullock which made €2,000.

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Meanwhile, Bord Bia's beef specialist, Joe Burke, has maintained consumer resistance could curb further beef price increases.

"Irish prices have consistently exceeded the weighted average for the EU-15 since last April," Mr Burke said.

"Typically over recent years we have tended to be a couple of percent below the EU average, with the exception of 2008 when Brazilian beef was effectively banned from the EU market," he explained.

"Teagasc research would suggest that winter finishers need a 10pc higher price than producers selling off grass to justify the higher costs involved. The element of risk is even higher this year when you take the value of the store animal into account."

He said Irish cattle supplies were would remain tight next spring and lower cattle numbers were also expected in a number of important markets, including Britain and France.

However, he pointed out that the economic downturn continued to impact on consumer demand for beef.

"Mince accounts for more than 50pc of the beef sold by the supermarkets and consumers are looking out for price promotions," Mr Burke said.

Indo Farming