Cattle marts: Dairy-beef stock coming under pressure

In recent times, dairy farmers have focused on using Angus and Hereford bulls to maximise the value of their surplus calves and cattle.

Last year, 25% of all calves registered in Ireland were sired by traditional bulls – mainly Hereford and Angus. Almost 350,000 Angus-cross calves and 200,000 Hereford-sired calves were registered in Ireland last year. When combined, that’s an increase of nearly 200,000 head on the number registered in 2011.

Given the rise in early-maturing calf registrations, it was always likely that a number of these animals would filter down through the marts over time. And, in recent weeks, this has particularly been the case.

Mart managers have noted the supplies of these animals have increased and, as a result, the prices being achieved for such animals have decreased. This comes as many store buyers focus on quality and are instead more interested in securing continental-bred animals.

Over recent days, dairy-beef store cattle have traded at €1.75-2.00/kg. Those making over €2.00/kg have been few and far between. The animals that have passed this mark have generally been the better-quality lots that will produce an R-grade carcass at slaughter.

Balla Mart

Approximately 1,000 cattle passed through the ring of Balla Mart, Co. Mayo, on Saturday. According to the mart manager, Michael Murphy, great stock are still being presented for sale by farmers.

Looking at bullocks first, lots weighing up to 400kg sold for an average price of €2.33/kg; €2.25/kg was paid for those weighing 400-500kg; and heavier steers (500+kg) made €2.19/kg.

Sample steer prices:
  • Limousin: 340kg – €1,000 or €2.94/kg;
  • Charolais: 490kg – €1,320 or €2.69/kg;
  • Limousin: 665kg – €1,500 or €2.26/kg;
  • Limousin: 705kg – €1,620 or €2.30/kg.

Murphy added that Saturday’s sale featured the biggest entry of heifers this year. In total, some 450 lots passed through the ring.

On prices, he said, store heifers (weighing up to 400kg) traded at an average price of €2.27/kg. Lots weighing 400-500kg made €2.21/kg and prices of €2.17/kg were achieved for those weighing in excess of 500kg.

Sample heifer prices:
  • Charolais: 275kg – €640 or €2.33/kg;
  • Limousin: 360kg – €1,160 or €3.22/kg;
  • Charolais: 465kg – €1,240 or €2.67/kg;
  • Simmental: 565kg – €1,340 or €2.37/kg.

In addition, some 150 cows were also on offer at Saturday’s sale. He said that there was some nice in-calf cows on offer in the springer section of the sale.

The best of these was an April-2014 born Charolais cow. Accompanied by a Limousin bull calf, this pair sold for a whopping €2,170.

A February-2008 born Limousin cow topped the dry cow section on the day. Offered by a farmer from Claremorris, this cow sold for €1,715. Overall, dry cows sold for an average price of €1.68/kg.

Carnew Mart

Some 860 cattle passed through the ring of Carnew Mart, Co. Wicklow, on Saturday. David Quinn, the mart manager, said: “There was very good demand for beef and quality lots; but plainer cattle met a slower trade with less farmer customers.”

The beef and forward steers on offer sold for €1.85-2.38/kg; continental stores made €1.95-2.65/kg; and prices of €1.85-2.12/kg were obtained for the Hereford and Angus-type steers in the Wicklow-based venue. The hammer fell at €1.32-1.82/kg for the plainer, Friesian steers on offer.

Moving on to heifers, factory lots traded at €1.88-2.55/kg and store heifers sold for €1.85-2.72/kg; the prices achieved for the latter category really depended on the quality being marketed.

In addition, a number of cows were also entered into Saturday’s weekly sale in Carnew Mart. Cows with calves at foot traded at €1,250-1,650; store cows sold to a top price of €410 over; and beef cows made €450-880 over.

Kilkenny Mart

Staying in the south-east, Thursday’s sale in Kilkenny Mart, Cillin Hill, featured an entry of 1,200 cattle and a clearance rate of 95%. George Candler, the mart auctioneer, said Hereford and Angus-type cattle were present in stronger numbers.

He said: “There was a bigger sale in Kilkenny Mart on Thursday, with trade for quality continentals remaining firm.

“Aberdeen Angus and Hereford heifers were a bit more difficult to sell; especially if they originated from the dairy herd.” The bulk of these sold at €1.75-1.95/kg and the lighter-store heifers attracted less customers.

Sample Angus and Hereford prices:
  • Hereford steer: 515kg – €1,065 or €2.07/kg;
  • Angus steer: 495kg – €1,000 or €2.02/kg;
  • Angus heifer: 435kg – €765 or €1.76/kg;
  • Hereford heifer: 375kg – €780 or €2.08/kg.

Prices of €1.85-2.55/kg were achieved for beef heifers on the day; a top price of €2.70/kg was paid for forward-store heifers; and light-store heifers sold at €1.70-2.54/kg.

Candler added that the number of Friesian bullocks on offer had also increased. For the most part, the plainest of these animals sold at €1.50-1.70/kg; the better-quality lots traded up to €2/kg.

In addition, beef bullocks (600+kg) traded at €1.85-2.30/kg – pretty much unchanged from last week – while lighter stores (400-500kg) made €1.50-2.70/kg.

Sample heifer prices:
  • Charolais: 660kg – €1,490 or €2.26/kg;
  • Simmental: 490kg – €1,200 or €2.45/kg;
  • Limousin: 440kg – €1,165 or €2.65/kg;
  • Blonde d’Aquitaine: 360kg – €950 or €2.64/kg.

Moving on to cows, Candler said: “Cull cows were in demand with a top call of €2.30/kg.” Friesian-type cull cows sold for €1.00-1.70/kg and the better-quality continentals fetched €1.35-2.30/kg.

Ennis Mart

Quality was the main driver of price in Ennis Mart last Thursday, according to the mart’s Danny Moran. He said: “Quality throughout the sale was a lot more varied, with plainer types meeting a tougher trade.”

Bullocks generally made €1.64-2.96/kg and, again, forward and factory-fit cattle were a strong trade. These lots sold to a top price of €2.57/kg.

Sample steer prices:
  • Limousin: 472kg – €1,300 or €2.75/kg;
  • Belgian Blue: 625kg – €1,595 or €2.55/kg;
  • Charolais: 775kg – €1,830 or €2.36/kg;
  • Hereford: 725kg – €1,315 or €1.81/kg.

Heifers (350-500kg) sold at €2.00-2.95/kg and those weighing over 500kg made €1.92-2.47/kg. Moran added that cull cows were slightly easier.

“Good continental types sold for €1.55-2.04/kg; other types traded at €0.85-1.50/kg. Aged bulls made €1.40-1.88/kg,” he said. The top price on the day was achieved by a Charolais bull weighing 1,180kg; this bull made €1,970 or €1.67/kg.