Cattle marts: Round up of live trade prior to sale shutdown

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that all livestock marts were to close from midnight on Tuesday, March 24, as the Government moves to halt the spread of the Covid-19 virus across the country.

Unfortunately, this announcement delivers a massive blow to the mart trade, and indeed the wider agricultural community, at a time when mart entries are growing in size week-by-week.

In a normal year, thousands of animals would change hand in local marts – which are described as the backbone of rural Ireland – over the coming weeks.

However, managers were quick to note that marts can still play a role in the selling and purchasing of livestock.

But, this will take place in the absence of a live auction and farmers are urged to get in touch with their local mart if they are marketing or buying animals.

Here’s hoping that this measure will only be short-lived and marts will be back open for business in the not too distant future.

However, where marts were successful in holding auctions in recent days, managers implemented strict restrictions such as; ‘drop and go’ systems; buyers and seller-only systems; and social distancing. In the main, these measures were respected by mart patrons.

While the trade was more difficult for some lots – particularly cows, as a result of severe price cuts at factory gates, the improved weather and grazing conditions helped demand.

Despite this, as a result of the uncertainty brought about by the Covid-19 virus, some forward or shorter-keep bullock and heifer lots were back in price.

This Simmental cow, weighing 775kg, sold for €1,200 at Dowra Mart on Saturday last

Ennis Mart

There was a “good size sale” at Ennis Mart on Thursday, March 19, with some 800 lots presented for sale on the day.

Mart manager, Martin McNamara, highlighted that the sale went ahead with further restrictions in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19; he also noted that customers must be thanked for their cooperation.

The trade for bullocks on the day was said to have improved on the previous week, while the heifer trade was similar.

Sample bullock prices:
  • Limousin: 625kg – €1,480 or €2.37/kg;
  • Aberdeen Angus: 725kg – €1,315 or €1.81kg;
  • Hereford-cross: 460kg – €925 or €2.01/kg;
  • Charolais: 473kg – €1,230 or €2.60kg.

Sample heifer prices:

  • Limousin: 485kg – €1,135 or €2.34/kg;
  • Charolais: 470kg – €1,065 or €2.27/kg;
  • Hereford-cross: 305kg – €690 or €2.06/kg.

“Cows were easier in line with the pull in beef quotes for cull cows at the factory,” Martin said when describing the cow trade at last Thursday’s sale.

Sample cull cow prices:
  • Charolais: 890kg – €1,740 or €1.96/kg;
  • Limousin: 575kg – €1,260 or €2.19/kg;
  • Belgian Blue: 560kg – €1,200 or €2.14/kg;
  • Friesian: 475kg – €680 or €1.43/kg.

“The improvement in the weather meant that there were farmers anxious for stock,” he added.

Kilkenny Mart

Kilkenny Mart held its most recent sale on Thursday, March 19. Mart auctioneer George Candler described the sale as “a difficult days trading for all involved”.

George outlined the relevant safety precautions that were taken on the day:

He said: “Security was provided for both rings with a ticket-entry system monitoring numbers, which never exceeded 80 people.

“The fact that Kilkenny Mart has individual seating was beneficial in ensuring that all patrons were a safe distance from each other. All buyers had to be seated, as the actual ring sides were cordoned off,” George explained.

On the day, some 930 lots were on offer. Bullocks in excess of 600kg made up to €1,600/head, while those weighing less than 600kg topped out at €1,290/head.

Forward store heifers met a steady trade, with prices ranging from €1.70/kg to €2.25/kg. Beef heifers topped out at €1,280/head, with prices typically coming in at €1.70-2.20/kg.

Sample bullock prices:
  • Charolais: 575kg – €1,290 or €2.24/kg;
  • Limousin: 655kg – €1,395 or €2.13/kg;
  • Hereford: 560kg – €1,140 or €2.04/kg;
  • Friesian: 490kg – €910 or €1.86/kg.

Sample heifer prices:

  • Charolais: 560kg – €1,240 or €2.21/kg;
  • Aberdeen Angus: 475kg – €1,190 or €2.51/kg;
  • Limousin: 520kg – €1,090 or €2.10/kg;
  • Continentals: 410kg – €900 or €2.20/kg.

Continental cull cows achieved prices of €1.15-1.90/kg, while Friesian cull cows topped out at €1.55/kg.

Blessington Mart

There were some 164 head of cattle at Blessington Mart on Thursday, March 19. John Doyle of Blessington Mart reported a steady trade for all classes.

Continental store bullocks achieved prices of €420-640 over on the day, with Aberdeen Angus and Hereford bullocks selling for €300-480 over.

Store heifers saw a decent trade on Thursday last also. Continentals achieved prices of €400-600 over the kilogram, while Hereford and Aberdeen Angus heifers ranged from €310 to €435 over.

‘Fat cows’ were reported to sell for €190-480 over.

Carnew Mart

Carnew Mart saw a smaller entry of cattle on Saturday, March 21, with some 1,030 lots on offer, including 300 calves.

When describing the measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19, mart manager David Quinn told AgriLand: “The social distancing rules were adhered to and we received excellent cooperation from all customers.”

“The trade on the day was reportedly very strong for quality cattle,” David said. “Beef cattle were steady at last week’s rates, while plainer store cattle were easier by €10-20/head.”

Sample bullock prices:
  • Belgian Blue: 640kg – €1,470 or €2.29/kg;
  • Aberdeen Angus: 560kg – €1,010 or €1.80/kg;
  • Limousin: 410kg – €1,060 or €2.58/kg;
  • Hereford: 660kg – €1,300 or €1.97/kg.

Sample heifer prices:

  • Limousin: 660kg – €1,490 or €2.26/kg;
  • Aberdeen Angus: 310kg – €630 or €2.03/kg;
  • Charolais: 445kg – €1,010 or €2.27/kg;
  • Hereford: 470kg – €910 or €1.93/kg.

Cull cow prices:

  • Friesian: 530kg – €620 or €1.17/kg;
  • Friesian: 610kg – €800 or €1.31;
  • Charolais: 778kg – €1,300 or €1.67/kg;
  • Jersey: 510kg – €440 or €0.86/kg.

Baltinglass Mart

Tom Coleman of Baltinglass Mart told AgriLand this week that there was “a smaller number out” on Wednesday last, March 18; sighting the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as the reason.

Tom reported that the trade was “slightly easier” than previous weeks; with ‘fat cows’ making up to €900/head, while last week they made over €1,000/head.

Sample bullock prices:
  • Charolais: 513kg – €1,310 or €2.55/kg;
  • Simmental: 595kg – €1,260 or €2.12/kg;
  • Limousin: 480kg – €1,130 or €2.35/kg;
  • Aberdeen Angus: 495kg – €1,065 or €2.15/kg.

Sample heifer prices:

  • Hereford: 560kg – €1,025 or €1.83/kg;
  • Hereford: 545kg – €1,020 or €1.87/kg;
  • Limousin: 245kg – €650 or €2.65/kg;
  • Limousin: 310kg – €580 or €1.87/kg.