Cattle marts: Prices improve for suckler-bred stock

Buoyed by relatively strong levels of grass growth and mild weather conditions, some confidence has returned to the cattle trade over recent days.

Marts – especially those located in the west of the country – have noticed an improvement in the trade for quality continental cattle; some have reported price improvements of €20-30/head for heifers.

However, as has been the case for a number of months now, dairy-bred stock are continuing to meet a more difficult trade, as buyers for these animals are few and far between.

Balla Mart

Balla Mart held its end-of-month continental sale on Saturday last and 1,000 cattle passed through the ring. Cattle were said to have been a bit dearer than the previous week, which was driven by the good trade on the day.

Buyers from all over the country attended last Saturday’s sale and there were a number of Northern Irish buyers at the ringside for breeding heifers.

Looking at steer prices first, lots falling into the 300-400kg category averaged €2.03/kg, while heavier stores (400-500kg) sold to an average price of €2.21/kg. Turning to the heavier bullocks, an average price of €2.10/kg was realised for steers >500kg.

Sample steer prices:
  • Charolais: 295kg – €750 or €2.54/kg;
  • Charolais: 390kg – €1,030 or €2.64/kg;
  • Charolais: 470kg – €1,315 or €2.80/kg;
  • Limousin: 685kg – €1,590 or €2.32/kg;
  • Charolais: 795kg – €1,770 or €2.23/kg.

Moving on to the heifer trade, a good clearance rate was recorded, as heifers weighing up to 400kg sold to an average price of €2.24/kg. The 400-500kg heifer average stood at €2.19/kg and the heavier heifers (>500kg) sold to an average of €2.23/kg.

Sample heifer prices:
  • Charolais: 290kg – €640 or €2.21/kg;
  • Charolais: 395kg – €1,030 or €2.61/kg;
  • Limousin: 480kg – €1,280 or €2.67/kg;
  • Belgian Blue: 590kg – €1,470 or €2.49/kg;
  • Charolais: 685kg – €1,610 or €2.35/kg.

150 cows were also on offer; in-calf cows sold to a top call of €1,830, while the best of the dry cows made €1,780.

Kilkenny Mart

The trade steadied and – in some cases – improved at Kilkenny Mart’s weekly cattle sale on Thursday last. However, light, dairy-bred stock continued to meet a difficult trade; this was especially the case for out-of-spec animals.

A smaller entry of 700 cattle was recorded, as farmers were busy with silage and completing many other jobs on their farms in excellent weather conditions.

Prices of €1.80-2.40/kg were recorded for >600kg steers on the day; 500-600kg animals made €1.70-2.60/kg and the lighter stores (<400kg) made €1.50-2.50/kg.

Sample steer prices:
  • Limousin: 700kg – €1,680 or €2.40/kg;
  • Hereford: 650kg – €1,270 or €1.95/kg;
  • Limousin: 515kg – €1,250 or €2.43/kg;
  • Friesian: 500kg – €900 or €1.80/kg;
  • Charolais: 495kg – €1,170 or €2.36/kg;
  • Aubrac: 470kg – €1,165 or €2.48/kg;
  • Limousin: 360kg – €900 or €2.50/kg;
  • Angus: 315kg – €550 or €1.75/kg.

Meanwhile, looking at heifer returns, beef heifers sold for €2.00-2.30/kg, forward store heifers made €1.80-2.40/kg and the light store heifers traded at €1.60-2.30/kg.

Sample heifer prices:
  • Limousin: 675kg – €1,540 or €2.28/kg;
  • Charolais: 655kg – €1,410 or €2.15/kg;
  • Hereford: 605kg – €1,230 or €2.03/kg;
  • Limousin: 515kg – €1,080 or 2.10/kg;
  • Angus: 495kg – €965 or €1.95/kg;
  • Limousin: 480kg – €1,140 or €2.38/kg;
  • Limousin: 395kg – €895 or €2.27/kg;
  • Charolais: 380kg – €850 or €2.24/kg;
  • Angus: 360kg – €700 or €1.94/kg.

Mart auctioneer George Candler said: “Quality continentals are selling well, with forward animals attracting the most attention.”

He added: “Quality beef – the product of the sucker herd – appears not to be wanted by the factories and [that] has created disillusion and financial loss to farmers who produce and finish these animals.”

Continuing, George said: “Factories will soon realise that quality beef from the suckler herd will decline dramatically.

Here in Kilkenny we have dispersed 20-30 top-quality suckler herds in the past two-to-three years, with many of these going into dairy.

“I fear it may be too late to save our suckler herds and the sad bit about it is that when it’s gone, it’s definitely gone.”

Raphoe Mart

A lively trade was reported at Thursday’s weekly cattle sale in Raphoe Mart, Co. Donegal, but plainer cattle continued to meet a difficult trade. However, more customers were in attendance for these animals and prices increased slightly from the previous week’s sale.

Turning to the quality continentals on offer, these animals were in great demand, with customers favouring to purchase the more forward store types.

In terms of the returns achieved, bullocks sold at €2.20-2.70/kg, with beef bullocks selling at €600-960 over and store bullocks making €400-880 over.

Meanwhile, beef heifers sold for €500-825 over and store heifers traded at €350-740 over; these prices generally fell into the €2.10-2.80/kg bracket.

Meanwhile, a selection of fat cows was also on offer and these lots sold at €600-1,450/head.

Ennis Mart

Numbers were up in all rings of Ennis Mart on Thursday last and, in general, the trade improved by €20-30/head for heifers.

Sample heifer prices:
  • Charolais: 387kg – €980 or €2.53/kg;
  • Limousin: 520kg – €1,280 or €2.46/kg;
  • Charolais: 493kg – €1,150 or €2.33/kg;
  • Hereford: 610kg – €1,040 or €1.70/kg;
  • Limousin: 440kg – €1,110 or €2.52/kg;
  • Charolais: 535kg – €1,280 or 2.39/kg;
  • Hereford: 436kg – €795 or €1.82/kg.

A nice selection of steers was also offered on the day; prices for the heavier lots ranged from €1.77/kg up to €2.35/kg, while prices of €2.40-2.72/kg were paid for animals falling into the 450-500kg category.

In addition, the cow trade continued to remain firm and mostly continental animals were available.

Sample cow prices:
  • Simmental: 805kg – €1,715 or €2.13/kg;
  • Angus: 665kg – €1,330 or €2.00/kg;
  • Charolais: 875kg – €1,580 or €1.80/kg;
  • Hereford: 555kg – €835 or €1.50/kg;
  • Limousin: 710kg – €1,420 or €2.00/kg;
  • Angus: 582kg – €825 or €1.42/kg.