Clear divisions have opened up in the cattle trade this week.
Forward heavy cattle or stock close to the knife are more or less solid across the country; while the store trade is divided into the "better animals" making the better money with the "lesser animals" making lesser money, as one mart manager so eloquently put it.
Also noticeable however was the inclination of the trade to cut the lighter type Friesian-Holstein of 350 kilos or less adrift of everything else.
An indication that long-keep stock are being viewed more warily, given the year and the possibility of a very expensive winter.
So, bearing in mind that I write this report on a Tuesday night, and the forecast is for very rough weather on Wednesday and on into Thursday, let us begin.
To Bandon first, where their sale on Monday was of a "nice size", according to Tom McCarthy.
Tom said, "Continental type bullocks were an excellent trade" and that good, well fleshed dry cows "were improved".
The Friesian-Holstein type bullock however was a "much tougher trade", he said.
Despite the large turn out of stock on the day, which included some 70 cull cows, Bandon achieved an almost complete clearance.
On a separate note, this Friday sees the conclusion of 46 years of unfailing service to Bandon mart by one Esther "Essie" Bowen.
She is the lady who fills me on the prices of the livestock you see here each week for Bandon, a lady whose voice is full of charm and eloquence.
Tom McCarthy said, "She is Bandon Mart, a true lady with just a touch of roguery". Essie herself said that she has seen many changes.
"We have come a long way from the days before computers, when it was nothing new to be going home at two in the morning and returning at eight the next morning to finish the ledgers."
From all in the Irish Examiner Farming, thank you.
Tuesday last saw 300 cattle fill the yard in Kanturk in what Michael Scanlon described as a "good size sale". "Trading," he said, "wasn’t on fire like a few months ago but cattle still sold away steadily".
Plainer stock, as in many other places "were easier going", he commented.
As in just about all the other marts, "some few went home unsold" as their owners decided that possibly it was just a little too early in the year to give up the ghost on the possibility of better prices.
I can’t say I blame them, because it is still only August, after all, and the weeks ahead must surely hold the promise of some better weather and possibility of a late thrive.
Kerry on Monday saw the mart in Tralee swing into full action, with manager Philip Healy telling me that as well as their usual Monday sale, preparations were under way for Tuesday evening’s special weanling sale.
To Monday first, however, where Philip said, "Beef was good, especially the better cull cow but plainer cattle were back."
The reality, he said, is that those animals of "300 kg or so are now making €1.50 a kilo".
Better stock were much in demand, but what was also in demand were factory type bulls, with Philip commenting that they had a number of two-and-a-half year old good quality bulls present, for which the factory men present developed "an appetite".
Moving to Tuesday evening, and Tralee’s special weanling sale, Philip told me that they had "a good turn out of stock for the show, with the majority of the animals being bought by the exporters". Strong bulls in particular were "a very good trade" he said.
He also noted that weights were broadly in line with last year, which he attributed to farmers taking on the extra effort and expense of feeding their animals during the very poor weather.
Monday in Kilmallock saw another very large sale, with 1,388 animals on offer, a 50% increase on the same day last year.
It’s a clear indication that the issues surrounding ground conditions, grass availability and concerns over winter feed are really beginning to bite in the Golden Vale region.
That said, there were plenty of buyers with heavy stock commanding good prices, with a good number of those animals heading up north, which illustrates the continued scarcity of beef in the UK market.
Tuam on Monday also saw a good turn out, with Gerry Hoade telling me that they had a "Good trade for bullocks".
Gerry emphasised to me the importance of the live export trade in that part of the world, commenting that it was vital that it be maintained, for the continuation of viable farming in the west.
In relation to the difficulties created by the weather, he said that the "Galway men were surviving through it, but it wasn’t simple".
The biggest issue, he felt, has been the lack of growth, because there was "no heat in the ground all year".
For four days last week, they had sun, and it was clear to see the "greening effect on the grass".
Following their victory over Cork last Sunday, I asked who his preference was for the hurling final, Kilkenny or Tipperary?
After a carefully judged pause, he replied "Well, if we were to meet and beat Tipperary, we could add them to Kilkenny and Cork, and that would be some year".
And some year it’s been, weather wise, with Jimmy Walshe of Carlow mart commenting, "The wheels came off the weather again last Sunday".
Be that as it may, trade in Carlow on Monday, with 300 animals on show, was "similar" to two weeks ago, Jimmy said. (Carlow had no sale last Monday due to the bank holiday).
"We had a good mix of cattle and a good trade" he said. Unlike some of the sales in Munster, cow numbers were down with just a "scatter through out the sale", he said.
Jimmy also speculated that some of the cattle present had come from farms where their owners had chosen to sift through their stock, and had possibly chosen to move on some of the ones that appeared to have shown less thrive, while keeping their animals with the greatest potential.
"It’s only a feeling I got from going through the mart" he said.
Sounds plausible though, move on the ones that may possibly need an above-the-odds amount of dear ration to finish, while keeping their more forward comrades at home.
All told, it was a very respectable sale with only "a few cattle going home" he said.
Moving back into Munster and Tuesday’s sale at Corrin in Co Cork, Sean Leahy said they had a very large sale.
Beef made up to €700 with the weight, with forward stores ranging between €300 and €635 with the weight, and lighter lots coming in at €150 to €415 with the weight.
"It was a tough sale for the real plain bullock," Sean said, but added that, "We had a lot of good stock, and they sold well".
"Everything was there to be sold, at a price. But it was a long day" he said.
Meanwhile, George Chandler speculated that Kilkenny had possibly escaped the worst of last weekend’s weather.
That said the previous Thursday’s sale had seen a similar scenario to the rest of the country, with George saying, "Quality cattle sold well, but there were fewer customers for the plain store and Friesians".
Despite the easing in prices for the plainer lots, he considered the trade "remarkably good".
He picked up again on the issue he raised with me last week concerning any potential trade with Libya — saying that it could be very important, but only if the prices on offer make the market attractive.
Attractive or not, he is right when he says, "A home will have to be found for all the smaller stock that will gradually appear."
As I said in my introduction, divisions are now becoming more evident in prices, as buyers become more choosy in how they spend their money, and given that by the time you read this, we may well have got yet another soaking, those divisions may be even more marked come next week.
For those of you wishing to sample the potential of this autumn’s weanling trade, Tom McCarthy says Skibbereen are having their first weanling show and sale tomorrow.
Back to News Headlines