Cattle marts: ‘Anything nice is still a good trade regardless of the situation’

From my travels over the weekend, I spoke with many farmers; two topics prevailed: factory prices; and the mart trade, and each conversation resulted in the same theme – top/good-quality cattle are still in demand and good prices are being paid for this type of stock.

One farmer noted: “Anything nice is still a good trade regardless of the situation – whether that be poor beef price or Brexit or anything like that.”

He was right. Over the past number of weeks, good money has been paid for quality cattle. In recent days, lower numbers presented for sale have provided more competition at the ringside and, in return, this added demand has led to good prices.

Having said that, the age and ‘spec’ of heifers and bullocks are also factors affecting the sale price of these animals, given the delay at slaughter and factory preference for under 30-month animals.

However, demand for the plainer quality animal is low and this has led to lower and varied prices for this type of stock.

Looking at the weanling trade first, it is best described as steady. In recent times, exporters have been absent compared to their activity a number of weeks ago, but farmers are still in the market for quality lots.

Cow prices are extremely varied and prices are dependent on the breed, age and the quality being presented for sale. Prices for poor-quality Friesian lots in some marts were reported to be as low as €0.45-0.50/kg, while continental lots are making anywhere from €1.00-1.90/kg – depending on quality.

Castlerea Mart

On Thursday last, in Castlerea Mart, more farmer activity driving the trade was reported by the mart’s manager, Brendan Egan, with 700 lots going under the hammer at the Roscommon-based venue.

Good clearances in relation to breeding stock, runners and dry cows were also reported.

Sample weanling bull prices:
  • Charolais: 295kg – €880 or €2.98/kg;
  • Belgian Blue: 290kg – €850 or €2.93/kg;
  • Limousin: 335kg – €970 or €2.89/kg;
  • Charolais: 350kg – €935 or €2.67/kg.

Sample weanling heifer prices:

  • Charolais: 285kg – €950 or €3.33/kg;
  • Simmental: 360kg – €830 or €2.30/kg;
  • Charolais: 305kg – €780 or €2.55/kg;
  • Limousin: 310kg – €855 or €2.75/kg.

A good clearance rate in the heifer ring was achieved, with numbers similar to weeks gone by, but a fall in the number of weanlings presented for sale was noted, resulting in an increase in demand for quality lots.

Sample heifer prices:
  • Limousin: 410kg – €940 or €2.29/kg;
  • Limousin: 400kg – €910 or €2.27/kg;
  • Charolais: 480kg – €1,075 or €2.23/kg;
  • Charolais: 470kg – €1,060 or €2.25/kg.

Springers sold for €600-1,500/head, while cows with calves at foot made €1,140-1,240/unit. In addition, a number of dry cows also went under the hammer at the sale.

Sample dry cow prices:
  • Limousin: 865kg – €1,455 or €1.68/kg;
  • Charolais: 810kg – €1,415 or €1.74/kg;
  • Simmental: 475kg – €1,370 or €2.88/kg;
  • Friesian: 535kg – €600 or €1.12/kg.

Moving to the calf ring, Friesian bull calves were reported to sell for €5-30/head, while better-quality calves – with more beef genetics – were reported to sell for €185-210/head; runners lots reportedly made €350-800/head.

Additionally, the bullock sale on Monday last, November 4, saw 200 bullocks on offer; a sharper trade was noted.

Sample bullock prices:
  • Charolais: 465kg – €1,135 or €2.44/kg;
  • Charolais: 430kg – €1,110 or €2.58/kg;
  • Limousin: 510kg – €1,265 or €2.48/kg;
  • Aberdeen Angus: 600kg – €1,210 or €2.01/kg.

Carnew Mart – weanling sale

Some 360 weanling heifers and bulls went under the hammer at Carnew Mart on Wednesday last, November 6; a strong export demand for bulls was reported by the mart’s manager, David Quinn, while he noted there was good farmer demand for quality heifers.

Starting with bulls, those weighing in excess of 400kg made €750-€1,150/head or €1.77-2.35/kg. Weanling bulls weighing less than 400kg sold for €570-980/head or €1.85-2.65/kg.

Moving to heifers, those coming in over 400kg were bought for €720-985/head or €1.72-2.38/kg and those weighing less than 400kg sold at €460-890/head or €1.82-2.62/kg.

Raphoe Mart

Last Thursday’s sale, November 7, in Raphoe Mart, Co. Donegal, saw a similar trade to the previous week, with quality again coming out on top, with poorer-quality cattle a harder sell.

Bulls weighing 600kg and over sold for €500-700/head, while store bullocks fetched €300-715 over; beef bullocks made €600-760 over.

Heavier beef heifers traded for €450-655 along with their weight and lots which require further feeding sold for €300-560 over.

In addition, dry cows sold for €450-1,520/head.

Headford Mart

Headford Mart held its weekly cattle sale on Saturday last, November 9. On the day, bullock prices ranged from €105 to €690 over or from €1.24/kg to €2.43/kg, according to the mart’s manager Joe Wynne.

In the bullock ring, two Limousin-cross bullocks weighing 540kg achieved the top price of €1,230 or €2.28/kg and another Charolais-cross bullock made €1,140 or €2.43/kg.

In the heifer ring, these lots made €305-655 along with the weight or €1.61-2.54/kg. A Limousin-cross heifer achieved a top price of €1,080 (€2.54/kg); she weighed 425kg.

Looking to weanling heifers, these animals sold for €185-645 over or €1.63-3.10/kg. A Charolais weanling heifer weighing 465kg sold for €1,110 or €2.39/kg.

Moving to weanling bulls, prices ranged from €110-600 along with the weight, or €1.44-3.10/kg. A Charolais bull – weighing 330kg – was bought for €930 or €2.82/kg. The top price on a €/kg basis went to two Charolais bulls weighing 232kg; they sold for €720 (€3.10/kg).

Cull cows were reported to sell for €410-1,170/head. The top price of €1,170 was paid for a six-year-old Charolais cow; she weighed 770kg.