In the past two weeks, the majority of livestock marts hosting weekly calf sales have noticed the calf trade cooling slightly.

Coloured beef-sired calves have eased slightly in price, but farmer-buyers are still active for these type of calves with a particular interest in the heavier, coloured calves.

Exporters are contending for the lighter beef-sired calves, while some farmers are still buying this type of calf too.

However, the lighter, dairy-sired bull calf has become a much tougher sell.

Most mart managers would admit these type of calves have become a tougher trade and buyers are reluctant to come forward – even at prices as low as €5.

Some mart managers believe the increasing input costs are deterring beef farmers from rearing these lesser beef-value calves.

Other mart mangers believe the lockdowns during Covid-19 led to an increase in the number of farmers rearing small numbers of calves at home, and this trend has reversed since lockdowns have ended.

While export demand remains strong for ‘middle of the road’ Friesian bull calves and farmer demand is still there for the heavier, better-type Friesian bull calves, some marts are having to resort to offering these lighter dairy-sired bull calves ‘free to good home’.

Generally, the practice at a mart is that all unsold livestock are taken home by the farmer who owns them. In the case of these calves however, it seems the farmers who own these unsold calves are reluctant to collect them from the mart.

The vast majority of calves presented at marts are selling to a good trade and most farmers with these lighter dairy-sired bull calves are aware that they must be fed on-farm for an extra few weeks, in order to get interest from buyers.

There is a mindset among some dairy farmers that it costs a lot to bring a bull calf to a good sale weight, but they should be reminded that a social licence to produce milk is what they’re paying for.