Bumper week of calf sales on the cards…once the snow lifts

Storm Emma’s snow accumulations have caused disruptions to the mart trade this week and many marts were forced to abandon trading.

Despite the weather, calving is in full swing on Irish farms and more than 30% of the nation’s dairy cows have now given birth.

Looking at the latest statistics from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), some 127,889 calves were registered to dairy dams during the week ending February 16. A further 111,672 dairy calvings were registered during the week ending February 23.

Taking into account that 50% of these calves are bulls, it means that somewhere in the region of 100,000 calves will come available for sale in the near future.

As many sales were cancelled and farm-to-farm trading has been limited due to road conditions in many parts, a bumper week of calf sales looks to be on the cards next week.

Bandon Mart’s Tom McCarthy told AgriLand that numbers are likely to climb and he’s expecting in the region of 2,000 calves to be offered for sale next Monday.

Good calves are trading well and farmers are willing to pay for the right type of calf. However, the trade for lighter calves was a touch down on Monday.

“Grass cattle numbers are slow to come forward and, with the snow, it will be probably be another couple of weeks before we see a significant increase,” he said.

Calf prices

A huge variation in calf prices was recorded in marts that were successful in holding sales earlier this week. As it stands, the trade is being dominated by black and white bull calves and lots suitable for export traded at €70-140/head.

Meanwhile, the lighter, younger calves sold for €10-60/head. Calves with Jersey genetics generally realised the lower of these prices.

Farmers also remained active at the ringside. When it came to Friesian bull calves, farmers were willing to pay anywhere from €130 up to a top price of €250 to secure these lots. Again, these prices were dependent on the age of the calf and the degree of feeding undertaken prior to sale.

Looking at continental bull calves, farmers forked out prices of €250-500 to purchase such animals, while heifers generally made €130-200 – for lighter-boned animals – up to a top price of €380-470/head for the better-quality, well-reared calves.

Moving to early-maturing animals, the hammer fell on Hereford and Angus heifers at €160-300, while the best of the Angus and Hereford bulls traded at €270-360.

Farmers urged to feed calves

Exporters have warned that farmers need to ensure that their calves are adequately fed before presenting them for sale.

The success of calf exports to countries like Spain and the Netherlands depends on the delivery of strong, healthy calves. To maximise the changes of having dairy bull calves exported out of the country, dairy farmers are being encouraged to feed their bull calves well prior to bringing them to the marketplace.