The trade at the marts over the last week has seen prices improve markedly for heavier stock as the factory price has stabilised and, in some cases, improved.
This stability has injected more optimism into the store side with several mart mangers commenting that the better quality animal was also improved, while they suspected the plainer bullock may have "bottomed out".
Tom McCarthy of Bandon began his report by quoting the line from the Dinah Washington and Tony Bennett song: ‘What a difference a day makes’. A reference to the fact that as the weather has improved so too has farmer confidence.
Their trade on Monday, he said, was "genuinely okay", but dominated by "a large turn out of heavier stock" with more heavy cattle than stores present.
"Good Friesian stores were up and everything else held firm," he continued.
Tom noted that as the year has gone on those animals that were periodically re-housed due to the bad weather were now "not showing as well" as those that had survived more or less uninterrupted outside.
"Some cattle just look emptier on the day," he commented. I took this to be in no way a criticism of their owners because as we all know you do what is best for your stock, your farm and your business.
What I don’t know, however, is whether Tom McCarthy can actually sing! Monday is also mart day in Tralee, with Philip Healy telling me they had a "small but solid sale".
Cows and bullocks were "similar" in price to previous weeks, he said. Store heifers in the 350 to 400 kilo range, however, "were up a bit" he noted.
Referring back to the size of the sale, he considered that the fall off in sale numbers and attendance to be "understandable as men get stuck into" the important business of saving the harvest and attempting to replenish their winter stocks of fodder with late cuts of silage and maybe even hay!
Another mart with a smaller attendance for basically the same reasons as Tralee was Kanturk on Tuesday. Michael Scanlon told me that — although smaller — prices were "up a bit" on the back of "good demand".
Michael said beef was scarce and that the sale overall was "mixed, up and down" where quality was concerned.
With so many men staying away to get work done he said it was "difficult to get an accurate picture" of where the trade was at or might go.
With glorious sunshine outside those that were there he noticed were gone as soon as they got their business done. Hopefully everyone will get all the work done and be back next Tuesday for Kanturk’s spring show and sale of weanlings.
Beef was also scarce in Sixmilebridge last Saturday with Sean Ryan telling me "beef numbers were less", however, prices for the heavier ones pushed 700 to 900 with weight on occasions.
Stores too were improved as were numbers, with Sean telling me they had 40 more animals than the same week last year.
Sean gave some careful consideration to the plight of the winter finisher, noting that as more Northern men now travel south in search of cattle they have serious advantages over their southern cousins.
Among their advantages are the strength of sterling against the euro, the fact they can get the mart VAT back and also the stronger northern factory.
Strong, too, he reckons will be Galway’s challenge to Kilkenny on Sunday. His information is that his home county "are going really well in training".
He reckons that if Joe Canning hits form "it’ll take three Kilkenny men to mark him". True, but "mark him" they might Sean!
And it’s to Kilkenny I went next and a report from George Chandlier on last Thursday’s sale. George said the slide in store prices has effectively stopped due to the improvement in the weather and reduced supplies.
Beef in particular "was a much sharper trade" he said, while "the forward store animal was easier to sell".
Easier to sell as well were the "better quality Friesians even though there were probably less customers", he continued. George had an interesting perspective on the current factory price situation.
He wondered how long the price of beef in the UK would stay up if the Irish processors insist on sending cut price Irish product into the market.
Maybe that’s the plan: offer the supermarkets over there our stuff at a lower price thus pushing down the entire market. It’s happened before.
Corrin’s sale on Tuesday also saw a "good enough trade", according to Sean Leahy, with "numbers similar to last week". In relation to prices Sean said "quality was up" with "Friesians holding the same as last week", while heifers "were a good trade but scarce".
As in a number of other marts Corrin had a good selection of heavy cattle with the factory men "anxious", Sean noted.
In relation to the cull cow trade, Sean considered that those cows coming straight from the parlour might be a better trade if there was "a bit of work put into them".
Sean reckons that with the good weather now at hand he can see the store men letting their stock lie on for a bit to get them up to where they should be weight and condition wise.
Tomorrow sees Corrin’s first weanling sale of the autumn.
To Enniscorthy next, also on Tuesday just gone, where Tom Harrington told me they had a "slightly bigger sale" with a trade "that was no worse than previously".
As in many other places the crowd ringside was smaller than on the wetter days as the Wexford men put in the long hours to get the harvest and many other jobs back on track.
While the plainer Friesian was as Tom put it "a plainer price" nothing went home unsold.
Generating a lot of interest, however, was the section of the sale that saw 29 sucklers, a combination of black and red limousines, Belgian blues and Simmentals go under the hammer.
Cows with calves at foot made from €1,240 to €1,680 while soon to be calved ladies went for €1,050 to €1,270.
Monday’s sale in Kilmallock saw a 95% clearance, according to Denis Kirby, of the thousand-plus animals present. Denis told me there was "good farmer interest" in the largest section of the sale, the 2011 born store.
As everywhere else the weather helped the trade as the sunshine pushed on autumn grass and dried out the land.
"It’s amazing what the weather can do when it’s right," Denis commented as men dug a little deeper into their cheque books than in previous times.
There was a lesser supply of factory cattle than recently which saw both factory agents and finishers push on.
Two days previously, on Saturday, Kilmallock saw the dispersal of the top quality Cahirmee Angus herd.
Prices ranged from €4,000 to €5,100 for the cows while the heifers made up to €5,000.
Prices not for the faint hearted it has to be said, which is why majority of the buyers were largely from outside the more traditional farming realm; Arab owner stud farms, International rugby players and jockeys.
All the sort of lads you’d meet every Saturday night down the local!
Concluding this week in Thurles where Martin Ryan said on Monday that trade for the 692 animals present was "good all over".
There were, Martin said, "plenty of buyers with a more solid farmer trade" as the autumn men flexed their financial muscle.
The Northern men were also again present with their interest firmly focused on "big stores and heavy cattle," Martin observed.
Observing them too were some of the locals, with Sean telling me that one farmer commented in the office afterwards that "you’d known sterling was strong"; a similar sentiment to the one expressed by Sean Ryan of Sixmilebridge earlier.
Similar to other mart managers was Martin’s observation that some stock are not weighting as well as they would in a normal year.
While the trade is balancing itself nicely after some recent slippage there is little doubt that the 2011 born "plainer Friesian" is coming under serious pressure.
The predictions made by so many earlier in the year that this could possibly happen for these animals come the autumn are now looking ominous because although you can argue they have "bottomed out"; given the current factory trade and the UK market they are still €100 "wrong" in some cases, in my opinion.
The best hope for an easing of the downward pressure of these types is if the scenario painted by George Chandlier of Kilkenny in relation to the way the Irish factories could possibly go about increasing supermarket share against their UK counter parts can be avoided.
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