Calf trade: Friesian bull calves suitable for export ‘making €30-60/head’

Given the time of year, it’s no shock that some dairy farmers are already in the thick-of-things when it comes to this year’s calving season. With that, heavily-populated dairy areas have seen an increase in the number of calves being presented for sale during the past week.

Bandon Mart

While it is still early days, and market prices will be hard to gauge, Tom McCarthy of Bandon Mart revealed to AgriLand that there have been encouraging signs already.

Tom – who described the stock presented to the mart this week as “strong” calves – noted that registrations are up this year. This, he says, is a promising sign that trade will be on the rise soon.

“We wouldn’t really be expecting there to be big numbers until the second or third week in February, but trade has been decent up until now,” he said.

There was a total of 250 calves presented for sale in Bandon Mart last Monday, January 20.

The sale encompassed a wide variety of breeds, with Friesian bulls accounting for roughly half of the calves on offer.

Friesian bull calves suitable for export were making €30-60/head, while farmers were also buying. Around the ring, they were willing to pay anywhere from €80 to €165/head to secure the desired lot.

Prices ranged depending on “age and strength”, according to Tom.

Continental-cross bull calves were by far the top earners in the ring. 30 were sold last Monday; farmers were willing to spend €300-490/head to secure these, which consisted of Charolais and Limousin crosses.

Lots where Hereford and Angus bull calves were on offer made a steady price too, with a top price of €345/head. Younger bull calves of the same breeds were making sightly less, but still fetching a minimum of €250/head. Heifers, however, were going for less; prices ranged from €150 to €300/head.

Macroom Mart

Just 20 calves were presented to Macroom Mart, Co. Cork, this week.

“Trade has been strong overall for January and we would expect the calf trade to pick up from around mid-February onward,” John O’Mahony of Macroom Mart told AgriLand.

Friesian bull calves were few and far between. However, for those that did go under the hammer the price ranged from €40 to €155/head, depending largely on the strength of the calf on offer.

Continental-crosses were extremely hard to come by, with any presented for sale earning €300/head at a minimum.

There was a smattering of Hereford and Angus bull calves in the ring. Prices of €135-330/head were being paid.

Fermoy Mart

“Anything with strength” was seen to make a good price this week, Seán Leahy – Fermoy Mart manager – informed AgriLand.

“We had 60 calves this week and we’ll be expecting that to double each week from now on, until we reach around 800,” Seán said.

“Soft Friesian bull calves were making €70-88/head. Strong bulls born in early-to-mid December went for up to €225,” he continued.

Seán explained that early-maturing breeds – Angus and Hereford – bulls and heifers are doing well if they’re of good quality.

Strong Angus bulls sold for €220-340/head with heifers making up to €150/head. Hereford bulls sold for €240-300/head, while light bulls made similar to heifers at €195/head and €192/head respectively.

Continental-cross calves were not plentiful in Fermoy Mart this week. Just two lots were sold; they made €340/head and €350/head respectively.

In conclusion, Seán said: “We expect the calf trade to pick up around the second week in February. 95% of farmers down here don’t start calving until February 1, so it’s still a bit early.”