I got a call just before 2pm last Tuesday from the Joe Duffy programme asking would I go on air to talk about that day’s IFA protest in Dublin.
Just as well it was two o’clock, because by 6pm, with eight mart reports on my desk, I would have had a hell of a job trying to explain why — if margins in the business are so tight — cattle farmers had added €50 to €100 euro a head to the prices they paid for stock in the last week!
Beginning in Corrin on Tuesday, where mart manager Sean Leahy was in top form. "We had a very big sale of stock and a very strong trade," he said.
Sean also noted that there was a noticeable improvement in quality as well as numbers, "We had some very nice cattle in it," he said.
Sean pointed to two groups of "plainer Friesian type" bullocks, by way of illustrating the price rise. One lot weighed 450 kg and made €670; the other group at 440 kg and came in at €665.
"Two weeks ago, they would have struggled to make €600 to €620," he said.
Sean noted that they had bigger feeders present who pushed heifer prices to levels not seen for some time. "They were looking for big numbers and they set the ring on fire to get them."
The cow trade was also improved, examples included a single better fleshed 870 kg Friesian that made €1,350, a nice Limousin of 660 kg for €1,220, while a lighter, not overly well done Friesian tipped the scales at 530 kg and made €730.
Tuesday saw numbers in Kanturk hit 700 (400 cattle and 300 weanlings), with Michael Scanlon very satisfied with the turn out, "considering the day that was in it". Numbers of weanlings were no doubt helped by Kanturk’s special supplementary show and sale for this class.
James Mackesy of Castlelyons swept top prize in the heifer section for his 385kg Charolais heifer that made €1,100, while Joe O’Flynn of Inchadaly took the bull weanling award with his 340 kg Belgian Blue, making €1,010. Moving back to the main sale and the commercial stock, it was not uncommon for the better animals to push up to and beyond €2 a kg. As in Corrin down the road, cows were much in demand. "Cows went very well, everything from canners to the better fleshed ones made plenty," said Michael.
Monday’s sale in Kilmallock saw 1,782 animals pass through the various rings, with prices tending stronger than previous weeks. Bullocks peaked at €2.45 a kg, while heifers hit €2.05 a kg. While the better conformation continental type animals were setting the pace, the slightly simpler Herefords and Angus were also performing well, with €2 a kg and over common. Not to be out-done, men looking for the better weanlings drove prices to €2.76 a kg for bulls, while the heifers reached €2.36.
Heading to Carlow and their sale, also on Monday, mart manager Jimmy Walshe described proceedings. "It was a good sale, with a good attendance, a good clearance and a good feel to it."
Jimmy commented that it was very noticeable that Monday saw the numbers of not entirely finished forward stores increase. My idea of a forward store is the 550 to 600 kg bullock. However, down Carlow way, there are men who take on seriously heavier "schleps" of bullocks, with the intention of getting the maximum out of their big frames. Hence, when I asked what the buyers of a number of lots of 760, 755, and 680 kg Charolais might do with them, he replied, "Feed them on". The trade was dominated however by demand for 550 to 560 kg animals. "They were our best sellers on the day," he said. While Carlow handles a lot of fine continentals, Jimmy drew my attention to two Friesians that weighed 490 kg and made €860 — animals "that had a bit of style about them," he said. While I didn’t see them myself, his description reminds me of a time when dairy farmers considered beef genetics in the same sentence as milk.
Moving forward to Tuesday, Michael Harty at Nenagh informed me that despite the goings on in Dublin that day, his numbers were only "slightly less than expected".
"The trade was firmer, especially for the nicer ones," he said. In relation to the effect of the Dublin protest on numbers ringside, he commented, "Very few customers were missing, all our regulars appeared to be present, maybe a few less farmers".
He illustrated the strength of the trade by singling out a few lots of black Limousins of 470 and 480 kg that made €1,000 euro. "A good price," he said. To these he added seven Friesians of 506 kg that made €920, and a bunch of "plainer type" Angus that made €815. When the sale was over, 450 animals had found new homes. "A 100% clearance," Michael said.
Down on the south coast, Tom McCarthy at Bandon was in very positive mood about the outcome of their sale on Monday. "Trade was up well," he said.
As in Carlow, the biggest lift appeared to be in 500kg plus bullocks, "They were up €50 and more," Tom said. More specifically, he felt that the biggest lift seemed to be in the Hereford and Angus classes. Tom said they had men very keen for these types. "They pushed them to €500 with the weight."
Although processors have begun to play up once again on pricing, particularly in relation to Friesian stock aged over 30 months, their agents were still fit to pay €2 a kg for what took their fancy on Monday in Bandon. Also positive (when is he any other way?) was Martin Ryan of Mid Tipp Mart.
To sum up the trade in Thurles in Monday, he quoted from a report once given by Richard Harnett of Castleisland on Radio Kerry. "Bullocks were on fire, heifers were flying, and cows were steady," said Martin.
He said the trade for continentals was "unbelievable" and prices "phenomenal". However, Martin chose, like Sean Leahy of Corrin Mart, to single out the Friesian animal to illustrate the week-on-week price increase. "They were up €100 for the average one," he said. When I asked about the poorer types, he said, "They were up nearly as much".
Also taxing his mind was the surge in weanling prices. Martin says, "Weanlings are now significantly more expensive than this time last year". He calculates they are now €50 to €80 above last year’s price.
West of the Shannon, Tuam mart had their show and sale on Monday, which helped see numbers top 700. Mart manager Marion Devane said that the quality on show was "very good". Numbers of customers seemed to be largely unaffected by events in Dublin, despite a strong contingent from Galway reported to be travelling to the IFA protest. "Farmer and feedlot buyers were out in force," she said. The magic figure of €1,000 with the weight was reached and surpassed for some of the choicest, heavier animals, with €2 a kg and more paid for the 500 kg plus type animal suitable for housing straight away. With 100 breeding heifers, plus 100 commercial heifers and 150 lighter types among the 700, it was a sale with something for everyone.
While the IFA was flexing its political muscle this week in Dublin, it appears that a lot of cattle farmers considered it an equally good week to flex their financial muscle ringside.
With the first of the single farm payment cheques due out shortly, I wonder how much stronger the cheque book flexing might get?
Back to News Headlines