Cattle marts: Cull cows hold steady, but short-keep prime stock under pressure

While beef factory base quotes are unchanged amid the farm organisations and Meat Industry Ireland (MII) talks, the cattle mart trade is – for the most part – slow.

One of the talking points is the cull cow trade, with prices for these lots steady despite the lower prices on offer in the beef processing plants.

As always, good-quality continental lots are the best trade, with lesser-quality cows further back. As of yet, cull cows from dairy herds are low in the grand scheme of things.

However, while the cow trade remains steady, the on-going uncertainty in the beef game, and the poor prices offered for factory-fit cattle, is having a negative effect on short-keep prime cattle at the ringside.

Base quotes for steers stand at 345-350c/kg, while heifer quotes start at 355-360c/kg in the beef factories.

Numbers entered into marts are still on the low side, but quality is the main factor when it comes to prices achieved. Poorer-quality steers are a difficult trade and the same can be said for their female counterparts.

Another talking point when it comes to the mart trade is weanling prices. Elphin Mart held its annual weanling sale on the August bank holiday weekend – Monday, August 5 – and the mart’s manager, Gerry Connellan, noted that prices were back compared to the same sale in 2018.

While he noted that the quality of the cattle was good, the heavier bull trade was difficult. Gerry outlined that heavy bulls – hovering around the 500kg mark – were back up to €170/head, while lighter lots were back up to €100/head.

However, he explained that the heifer trade was better than the bull trade, with prices back €50-60/head compared to the previous year’s sale.

Carnew Mart

Some 530 cattle and 50 calves went under the hammer in Carnew Mart, Co. Wicklow, on Saturday last, August 10. David Quinn, the mart manager, said that there was a good demand for weanling bulls under 450kg.

Beef and forward store bullocks made €550-870 along with their weight. Continental store bullocks made €450-760 over, while Friesian bullocks sold for €120-450 along with their weight. In addition, weanling bulls made €380-670 over.

Looking at the heifer trade, beef lots made €520-750 over and store heifers fetched €320-660 over. In addition, beef cows fetched €400-710 over and store cows made a top price of €350 over.

Sample calf prices:
  • Continental bulls: €250-500/head;
  • Continental heifers: €130-380/head;
  • Friesian bulls: €70-155/head.

Headford Mart

Headford Mart held its weekly cattle sale on Saturday last, August 10. On the day, bullock prices ranged from €164 to €710 over or from €1.28/kg to €2.54/kg, according to the mart’s manager Joe Wynne.

A Charolais bullock weighing 500kg achieved the top price of €1,210 or €2.42/kg. Looking at the top price on a €/kg basis, this went to a Limousin bullock weighing 355kg; he sold for €900 or €2.54/kg.

In the heifer ring, these lots made €160-555 along with the weight or €1.47-2.50/kg. A Limousin heifer achieved a top price of €1,090 (€2.04/kg); she weighed 535kg. Furthermore, €2.50/kg (€825) was paid for a Simmental heifer weighing 330kg.

Cull cows were reported to sell for €570-1,080/head.

Castlerea Mart

Prices were reported to hold at Castlerea Mart, Co. Roscommon, on Thursday last, August 8. According to the mart’s manager, Brendan Egan, the quality of cattle on offer had improved on previous sales.

But, he noted that heavier forward cattle are under pressure, while breeding and dry cows performed well.

Sample heifer and steer prices:
  • Charolais heifer: 400kg – €885 or €2.21/kg;
  • Limousin heifer: 390kg – €950 or €2.43/kg;
  • Belgian Blue heifer: 420kg – €935 or €2.22/kg;
  • Charolais bullock: 475kg – €1,100 or €2.31/kg;
  • Limousin bullock: 545kg – €1,200 or €2.20/kg;
  • Aberdeen Angus bullock: 465kg – €1,085 or €2.33/kg.

Furthermore, cows with calves at foot made €860-1,740/unit. In addition, a number of dry cows also went under the hammer at the Roscommon-based venue.

Sample dry cow prices:
  • Limousin: 690kg – €1,310 or €1.89/kg;
  • Aberdeen Angus: 795kg – €1,285 or €1.61/kg;
  • Hereford: 650kg – €1,090 or €1.67/kg;
  • Limousin: 715kg – €1,280 or €1.79/kg.

Moving to the calf ring, calves made from €200/head to €2,200/head, while runners made €350-700/head.

Sample weanling prices:
  • Limousin heifer: 340kg – €835 or €2.45/kg;
  • Charolais heifer: 340kg – €805 or €2.36/kg;
  • Charolais bull: 375kg – €1,045 or €2.78/kg;
  • Limousin bull: 390kg – €1,000 or €2.56/kg.

Raphoe Mart

Last Thursday’s sale, August 8, in Raphoe Mart, Co. Donegal, featured a ”good entry” of cattle, according to the mart’s Anne Harkin.

She also noted that there was a good demand for quality, in-spec cattle. Grass is in plentiful supply so farmers are anxious for stock, she said.

However, she noted that plainer cattle were a much harder sale – making €1.50-1.90/kg. The quality, in-spec cattle were reported to make from €2.10/kg to €2.40/kg.

Anne also outlined that fat cows remain a good, steady trade and sold up to €1,420/head.