Stock were put out earlier than expected this year after a spell of very dry weather in early spring, so you could expect cattle to be ahead of where they would be if that had not happened. Yet that surely does not explain why mart numbers have continued so strong into July. I put this question to various mart managers last weekend.
All agreed that the weather has seen stock thrive better than expected, with the early drought followed by a mini rainy season which has now been followed by warm and humid conditions.
Over the last few weeks cattle have been basking in warm conditions and are thriving very well.
So well, in fact, that Thomas Potterton in Delvin Mart reported that some of his traditional September sellers have already begun appearing with their first draws.
Tom McGuire of Ballinrobe Mart reported similar activity, as did Brendan Egan of Ennis Mart.
But while agreeing that cattle are ahead of where they were this time last year as regards thrive and weight, they also pointed out that current strong prices could always be expected to "pull cattle" into the marts.
"This has been like no other July I remember - strong prices plus big numbers," Tom McGuire told me.
He thinks a lot of his clients are nervous about what a possible return of the Covid-19 might mean for the trade.
"Numbers are maybe bigger because of the lock down backlog, but lads are afraid that if the virus comes back later in the year marts may be forced to close or at best go back to just online meaning another backlog.
"Right now they see their cattle doing well and they are looking at the current good prices and are deciding to sell rather than wait."
Brendan Egan agrees, pointing out that if the virus regained the hold it had earlier in the year, the whole trade could once again be affected.
On the prices, the mart trade continues to be driven by improving factory returns and that bit of extra edge brought to the sale of heavier stock by the continuing competition between Southern and Northern factory agents.
The Northern dimension is a factor in Kilkenny Mart deciding to add a special heavy factory fit section to its normal sale this Thursday.
"We see this as an opportunity for us to offer another avenue of sale for those with heavy cattle in this area," said mart manager Michael Lynch.
"The current Northern trade is evidence that factories here could give more and we believe that by putting those heavy cattle through the ring on Thursday, farmers will have a better opportunity of seeing those better returns."
Thomas Potterton reported a very big sale for the time of the year, commenting that "we're still probably working through the lockdown backlog".
With plenty of buyers apparently still anxious to buy stock bullocks up to 450kgs, these sold from €1.65-2.42/kg, with 450-500kgs averaging €1.50-2.11/kg. In the 600-650kg section, prices settled between €1.68-2.15/kg. However, with demand strong for finished stock, the top of the 650kg+ market saw a 670kg Simmental making €2.33/kg.
On the heifer side, trade was brisk especially for the 500kg+ animal with their prices ranging from €1.85-€2.35/kg.
This was also a very big sale for the time of year. Tom McGuire attributed the extra numbers to not only a lockdown backlog, but also to the fear that a second surge of Covid-19 could close marts again in the autumn.
For now, trade was strong, with 450kg bullocks selling at up to €2.44/kg and 450kg heifers on a tops of €2.55/kg.
Among the heavy cattle, 600kg bullocks sold from €2.00-2.20/kg, while the best of the heavy heifers was a 600kg Charolais at €2.42/kg.
Numbers here were described as "reasonable" with a good mix of stock on offer, although heifer numbers did continue small. Trade was in very good order, however, with sample prices including three 382kg Limousin bullocks that made €2.25/kg, while three lighter 287kg Limousins cracked onto €2.96/kg.
On the traditional breed three 460kg Herefords averaged €2.17/kg, with three Anberdeen Angus crosses making €2.07/kg. On the heifer side you had two Herefords at 317kgs averaging €2.08/kg, while three 410kg Angus averaged €1.85/kg. Best of the heavy cull cows was a 750kg Charolais that sold for €1.76/kg, while at the other end you had a 520kg Friesian at €1.27/kg.
Here as at many other marts numbers last week were more reminiscent of September than mid July.
Bullocks in the 300-400kg bracket averaged €2.28/kg, with those from 400-500kg averaging €2.31/kg. Heavier bullocks averaged €2.11/kg.
Among the heifers a good trade saw lots under 400kg average €2.53/kg, with those from 400-500kgs averaging €2.28/kg. Heavier heifers averaged €2.14/kg. On the cull cow side prices averaged €1.75/kg. There were a lot of lighter bull weanlings on offer, with prices ranging overall from €1.91-2.41/kg.
A special sale of autumn-born bull weanlings saw prices perform very well, with a 485kg Limousin setting the bar at an impressive €1,570 or €3.24/kg. And he wasn't the only one from 450-500kgs that returned a good price.
Others of note included a 450kg Charolais at €2.84/kg, and a 455kg Limousin at €2.92/kg, while a 415kg Belgian Blue fetched €2.96/kg.
On the heifer side the best of the best was a 450kg Limousin that sold for €3.22/kg, leaving the rest some way behind as evidenced by the next best being a 335kg Limousin that sold for €3.13/kg.
A good entry of dry cows and sucklers saw dry cows in particular meet a strong trade, with samples including a 670kg Limousin that sold for €1,140. Two further 685kg Limousins averaging €1,100 while two 702kg Charolais averaged €1,410/hd. Sucklers with calves at foot sold from €1,100 to €1,540 while those in calf made up to €1,380/hd.