Calf trade: Friesian bull calves sell to €190/head at Kilkenny Mart

Kilkenny Mart’s first calf sale of 2019 took place on Tuesday last, February 5. At the sale, a total of 150 bulls and heifers were on offer.

Breeds included: Friesian; Hereford; and Aberdeen Angus lots. However, no continental calves were presented for sale.

George Candler – Kilkenny Mart auctioneer – outlined that the exporters present kept “a floor under prices”.

Older, Friesian bull calves sold for €100-190/head, while younger, lighter Friesian bulls made €50-110/head.

Moving to early-maturing animals, the hammer fell on Hereford bull calves at €215-300/head. In addition, their female counterparts sold at €170-250/head.

Aberdeen Angus bulls made €140-300/head; Angus heifers sold for €85-180/head, but older types went under the hammer for €200-300/head.

Price of calves

While calf sales are still in the early days and it is hard to gauge what calves will make over the coming weeks, beef farmers are being urged to base the prices they pay for calves on realistic costs and expected beef prices.

Recent work by Teagasc showed that targeting a €200/head profit – under a 24-month steer system – and a factory price of €3.90/kg, the value of a Friesian bull calf stands at -€8/head when both fixed and variable costs are factored in.

Also Read: How much should beef farmers pay for bull calves from the dairy herd?

Using the same criteria, Aberdeen Angus and Hereford bull calves are valued at €122/head. In addition, cross-bred Jersey bull calves are valued at -€107/head.

Speaking at a recent beef event in Co. Kilkenny, Teagasc’s head of knowledge transfer, Pearse Kelly, highlighted that there needs to be a sense of reality when it comes to the prices paid for calves.

He highlighted that well-ran dairy calf-to-beef systems are profitable. However, farmers must choose their system carefully and set out targets that are achievable. For example, avoiding certain systems – such as an under-16 month bull system – is important.