Mart prices rise as farmers pay no heed to Brexit fears
A month ago, this column reported how mart managers noted that some of those ringside appeared to have no fear of where the Irish cattle trade might go post March 29, the then date for the UK to exit the EU.
March 29 has come and gone, and the UK is still in the EU. Now we are supposed to wait until October 31 for something to happen.
The relevance of this is that no business can put itself on hold indefinitely – least of all the cattle business.
The seasons change, grass grows, and those in the extended beef business make their plans early for summer and autumn.
And so, two weeks on from March 29, average cattle prices for bullocks, heifers and weanlings were stronger last week than they were a month ago.
It’s a reminder that time and tide waits for no man.
The pragmatic Irish cattle farmer with grass to graze and stock to buy has gone about his business as normal, in the hope that in the longer term the world will sort out its own problems, Brexit or no Brexit. Not for him the gnashing of teeth.
Politics aside, mart prices have continued to strengthen, with increases on the bullock front seeing overall Ringside averages increase by 1-4c/kg last week, while on the heifer side overall averages rose by 3-5c/kg.
The resumption of a meaningful shipping trade has seen a couple of weeks of intermittent price increases.
However, last week prices on the weanling bull and heifer tables moved up in unison across all averages and most quality categories.
In the weanling bull section, the 100-299kg animal rose 5c/kg to €2.34/kg average, leaving him at €234-700/hd. The biggest price increase came in the bottom quarter, where prices rose 13c/kg to €1.74/kg.
The bottom quarter of the 300-399kg section also rose last week, up 5c/kg at €1.79/kg, while the better bull at this weight rose 7c/kg on average.
All this positive movement left the overall average price of your 300-399kg bull better by 6c/kg at €2.31/kg.
The 400-600kg bull, while seeing some positive moves among the better animals, was unchanged at €2.11/kg.
Returning to the steers and heifers, while their average price increases may not appear massive, you have to allow that mart numbers have been very strong very early, with last week continuing that trend.
Asked if they felt Brexit was a factor in flushing out extra stock ahead of March 29, Thomas Potterton of Delvin and Barney O’Connell in Kerry both felt that the kind weather in February and March combined with the resultant early grass growth were more significant.
Despite yesterday’s rain, this week’s forecast is promised good, with warm temperatures, and I expect both numbers and demand to remain strong for the short term at least.
Thomas Potterton reported a good trade, with bullocks especially sought after and numbers up on the previous week. Top price per kg among those bullocks saw a 350kg Charolais selling for €3.08/kg. Prices in the 400-500kg section averaged €1.56-2.21/kg, with Thomas noting that overall prices this year are tending lower than 12 months ago.
Barney O’Connell said sales have tended bigger far earlier this year. He reckons this is less to do with Brexit than with the weather and grass growth. Sample prices among the bullocks in a largely Friesian, Hereford and Angus-dominated yard included €1,005/hd for 16 486kg Herefords sold together, with 11 433kg Friesians selling for €735/hd. On the heifer side 300-400kg Angus made from €1.90-2.00/kg, with Herefords making €1.70-2.00/kg. Cull cows made €1-1.40/kg.
This was also a big sale with trade “very good” for all types of grazing cattle, although lesser-quality stock were slow sellers. Heavy bullocks made €1.95-2.35, with forward stores €2.05-2.55/kg, while your lighter store made €2.15-3.10/kg. Beef heifers made €1.90-2.45/kg, with store heifers on €2.00-2.95/kg. Weanling bulls sold from €2.00-2.85/kg, with weanling heifers making €2.10-3.00/kg. Dry cows sold for €1.20-2.05/kg.
The big numbers on offer may have eased the pressure off of both bullocks and heifers with a majority of bullocks falling into the 500kg+ bracket. Sample prices on the bullock side included an 830kg Charolais that sold for €2.29/kg and two 705kg Friesians that saw the hammer at €1.92/kg. In the forward bullock section seven 566kg Limousins made €2.29/kg, with a 595kg Limousin showing his superior lines at €2.61/kg. A 550kg Hereford clicked €2.09/kg. The cull cow trade was sharp with a 620kg Limousin setting the bar at €2.19/kg.
Strong demand among exporters here saw a 350kg Belgian Blue weanling make €1,590 or €4.50/kg. In general, weanling bulls sold from €2.40-3.05/kg, with those going for feeding making €1.90-2.37/kg. Weanling heifers suitable for export made €2.32-3.00/kg, with feeding heifers on €1.82-2.55/kg. On the dairy side freshly, calved heifers made €1,200-1,780/hd, with freshly calved cows €1,100-1,480/hd. Springing cows made €900-1,220, while bulling heifers and yearlings made €550-750/hd.
Charolais heifers made up to €2.84/kg with the top of the Limousins seeing €2.54/kg as trade remained strong. Sample prices among the weanling bulls included a 260kg Charolais that sold for €3.52/kg, a 395kg Limousin at €2.91/kg, with a 415kg Charolais making €2.70/kg. Weanling heifers also cracked on well with a 395kg Limousin and a 345kg Charolais among the top prices at €2.94/kg and €3.04/kg respectively. There was a large number of calves on offer, with prices better by €20-30/hd. This left dairy types to sell from €50-110/hd, with Hereford and Angus calves making €200-385/hd. Continentals saw a top call of €460.
7 Maam cross
Another yard with good numbers. Cows averaged €1.56-2.23/kg. Top price for a cow with calf at foot went to an April 2011 Limousin with Charolais heifer calf at foot. Heifers averaged €2.24-3.01/kg, with bullocks making €2.28-3.07/kg. Weanling bull prices ranged from €2.26-3.31/kg. Biggest price of the day saw the owner of a May 2018-born 490kg Charolais bull going home with a cheque for €1,125.