Prices for younger or lesser conformation animals have eased, but as one mart manager said to me, "Money is the life blood and there’s still plenty of it about."
Or as Mark Twain said (he wrote the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer), "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated", upon hearing his obituary had appeared in an American newspaper.
That same sentiment could be used this week to describe the mart trade.
Beginning in Corrin, where Sean Leahy told me they had "a very busy sale" on Tuesday.
While plainer Holstein Friesian types made €150 to €250 over their weight, the better Friesian animal was pushing €400 with the weight.
"Friesian bullocks sold away, but the plainer ones were easier," Sean said.
Not easier were heifers, with Sean commenting that, "they were up a nice touch".
Also well maintained was the supply of heavy cattle and forward stores that have become a feature of many marts around the country this summer.
"We had a lot of heavy factory cattle and forward stores, but we also had a good show of factory men and farmers to buy them, and they kept a solid floor under the prices," he said.
"To be honest, I was very happy with the trade," he concluded.
Tom Harrington of Enniscorthy, also on Tuesday, reported that they had "plenty of men for the 550 kilo and up animal".
Prices averaged €600 to €800 over the weight for these types, with Tom mentioning casually, "One made €1,160 over". For the record, he was an 850 kg continental, and made €2,010!
Although the smaller, longer keep animals were "under pressure", according to Tom, he also drew my attention to a lot of Friesian bulls who weighted 440 kilos and made €780.
"That’s not a bad price, given everything," he said. So the demise in the potential of the Friesian bull beef animal, like the death of Mark Twain, may have also been premature, if not exaggerated.
Not exaggerating was Michael Scanlon of Kanturk mart, who reported that their sale of 300 weanlings was "outstanding", and that the quality "was never better".
A claim supported by the price for the champion bull weanling (see photo), €3.33 a kilo; and the reserve made nearly €2.86 a kilo.
Another rosette winner was the Belgian Blue heifer that weighed 380 kilos and made €1,700. Moving from the weanlings to the 150 other cattle present.
Michael told me, "The sale was smaller and quieter in that quarter, especially the handy cattle.
" Not so "handy", he felt, were Kerry, who succumbed to Donegal in the football at the weekend.
Cork he felt would give a better account of themselves the next day out; a match that the people of Kerry will watch with interest.
Watching with interest the goings-on in Castleisland on Monday was mart manager Richard Hartnett.
"Things are gone tougher, Martin," he said. Like the Kerry football team, Richard sets very high standards, and was disappointed that his sale only returned prices between €2.30 and €2.40 a kilo for bull weanlings on Monday.
Although the sale was bigger, and he reported prices were lower across all classes, they were still very respectable, and well in line with the picture nationally.
However, well in line doesn’t cut the mustard or win football matches down in Kerry — such is the standard expected.
Moving to Macroom and their Saturday sale, John O’Mahony said that since he last spoke to me two weeks ago, "Our trade has held good, and numbers have remained strong".
He reported, like many other mart managers, that the lesser Holstein type bullock is easing back.
That said, prices for Friesians ranged from €1.50 to €1.70 a kg for the better animal.
At present, Macroom run their weanlings through the sale with everything else; however they will be having a special show and sale of spring born weanlings on Saturday, August 18.
John reckons that from then on, weanling numbers will increase, which begs the question, as he put it himself, "When the big flush comes out, will prices hold?"
The answer I suspect may have as much to do with the weather as what the predictions for the trade in the future might be.
In the here and now, though, prices were "very respectable", said John, with (as in Enniscorthy) bull prices recovering, and Limousins making €2.33 a kg, for example.
Also asking very pertinent questions when I spoke to him was George Chandler, auctioneer with Thursday’s Kilkenny mart. George said they had a larger than expected sale, with 520 on show, but that demand was solid.
However, he did raise the issue of what happens if all the cattle that have been flagged as being in the system begin to be materialise, as they must in the future.
The outlook he said could then become "tricky". To this end, he wondered, "Where exactly are we in the negotiations with the Libyans?"
George felt that the issue of live exports has to be one our minister "gets up and runs with sooner rather than later."
Returning to this week and the sale in Kilmallock on Monday, where numbers were once again increased. Denis Kirby said they had 1,255 animals on show, including 242 calves.
Denis put down the increase to a combination of factors — such as fodder shortages on some farms, particularly the heavier land, and the fact that prices are still very good.
He drew my attention to the 60 suckler cows they had on offer, commenting that it was about twice the number they would normally expect for early August.
This looked bad until he told me every one of them were bought by other suckler farmers, with none going for slaughter as far as he could judge.
Also up in numbers were cull cows, this Denis felt was down entirely to the weather and grass/fodder shortages, with their owners choosing to sell now rather than the more traditional approach of giving them grass for a few months before "factorying" them in late autumn.
Across the Shannon, in Sixmilebridge last Saturday, Sean Ryan was "a little concerned" for the trade.
Like all marts, Sixmilebridge takes advance bookings, but last Friday evening "saw a serious amount of interest" from farmers in getting stock booked in, he said.
Wet fields and potential fodder shortages were beginning to play on farmers’ minds.
The result was a very big sale the following day. "So what happened?" I enquired.
"The trade held. Fair enough, the plainer ones were back a bit, but the trade overall held," he replied.
Sean believes that a lot of finishers are of the view that the beef price will probably hold relatively strong until at least Christmas.
He told me that among his customers on Saturday were men who having bought stock earlier in the year, were now either turning them again, or had put them to the knife.
"Even at the bigger money back then, these boys have made money," he said. The only down side, and it’s a potentially huge problem for finishers, will be, as Sean says, "the cost of feed and the availability of it."
I have to agree with him and also agree with what he says about the role of the factories this autumn. "Factories must make farmers aware in advance of buying where they think the price will be when it comes time to sell".
The only question remaining for me is what the farm organisations are willing to do, to get an answer to that.
My final port of call was to Nenagh mart manager Michael Harty.
Michael told me they had 300 cattle on offer on Tuesday last and that although the plainer Friesians were easier, "the better quality Friesian bullock was a little sharper".
Michael said they had a big number of 550 kg and upwards cattle, but that their numbers of heifers had fallen off somewhat.
With a good crowd present at ringside, there was a plentiful supply of buyers. However, what was noticeable was that certain lots of stock were obviously "there to be sold", he said.
A result no doubt of the grass situation, and farmers weighting up their options and deciding that moving stock on was the most sensible approach.
What more or less everyone I spoke to this week agreed on was that although the year is moving on, should the sun decide to make a belated appearance, its effect on mart and factory numbers would probably see new vigour and life being injected into the trade.
The fly in the ointment, apart from feed costs, then will be how much trust the men buying cattle to finish are prepared to put in the factories not deciding to play silly buggers with the price come late autumn, or the run-up to Christmas.
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