Although this summer’s horrendous weather has brought great difficulties for the farming sector, the recent price pull of 25 cent at the factory gates has had a far more marked effect on the mart trade, this week.
The processing sector can effectively, and with apparent immunity, threaten the viability of the entire industry — and that has angered so many.
What farmers can and should do about it is complicated, in my opinion, because factories collect levies for certain farm organisations.
That aside, the reality is that prices have eased across the country, but not uniformly so.
For example, the trade in Fermoy/Corrin on Tuesday went "back up" for some classes, compared to the previous week, according to Catherine Dorgan.
The Fermoy area was, she said affected by the weather, but in a good way.
It was apparently the first really good day in a long time in that part of the world, and the sunshine seems to have encouraged greater optimism, especially in buyers of the better quality stock.
With temperatures hitting 20 degrees, she said, "We had a livelier trade than recently."
The yard held 520 cattle on the day, and despite prices for the poorer Friesian types easing somewhat, a majority of those present "suited the customers", who were not willing to leave them behind, Catherine said.
Equally buoyant was the trade in Carrick on Suir last Friday, with Michael Cunningham reporting, "We had a nice turnout of cattle with no let up in prices".
He cited Charolais bullocks of 650 kilos making €1,610.
"Forward store bullocks of 600kg," he said, "were very strong". As were heifers.
"The good ones pushed from €600 to €700 with the weight."
While the weather was an issue for many men, he felt a good week would steady any nerves.
The following day, Saturday, would see the sale in Sixmilebridge being affected by the weather, and the effect was negative, unlike Fermoy, according to Sean Ryan.
"Good bullocks were back €100 a head, farmers were nervous, and buyers a lot more cautious," he said.
With factories spinning the "we’re full" line, Martin noted that the plainer type stock suffered even more.
The weanling trade "held okay, but was still back", he commented.
An issue that Martin feels will impact on the trade as the autumn moves in is the price of nuts.
"Who’s going to feed for the spring trade, with ration prices going through the roof?" A fair question, I think.
In summary, Martin reckons that any further price falls at the factory will be survivable, "just so long as the store trade falls in line with the beef.
Anymore than that, and we’re all in trouble".
On Monday in Thurles, Martin Ryan reported, "Things were back a little."
He cited culls cows as being back as much as €50.
But on the positive side, "Heifers were maintained quite well, with beef heifers scarce."
He said bull weanlings were also a good trade, with 12 Charolais born between August and September making €750 with the weight".
Everything else however, Martin said, "reflected the trend at the factories, with poor Friesians a tough sale".
Martin noted that Monday also saw some "under-finished cattle" appear in Thurles — a sign that some finishers are either shunning the traditional factory route or — as Martin pointed out — "It's not available" due to the alleged "We’re full" scenario.
Martin however considers that the fundamentals that have underpinned the trade all year are still sound. In other words, the statistics imply that the numbers of factory cattle aren’t there.
Moving to Castleisland, also on last Monday, Richard Harnett said they had 326 calves and 150 weanlings on offer.
"Trade," he commented, "was slower," with weanlings back up to €150 a head on two weeks ago.
"That’s a lot of money in small cattle" he added.
He cited Belgian Blue heifers of 370 kg and 368 kg making €850 and €820 respectively, with a 410 Kg Charolais bull making €810, as examples of stock not reaching the expected mark.
Richard was scathing in his criticism of the factories for attempting to undermine the whole trade with their recent price pulls.
He pointed out that the farmers of Kerry, along with Teagasc, have put in years of work getting a premium breeding programme in place to supply very specific markets, and what do the factories do?
"Pull the bloody rug out from under us".
A sentiment echoed by many inside and outside the Kingdom.
The quality Richard speaks of will be on show in Castleisland next Monday at their autumn show and sale, with upwards of 1,300 top quality animals expected.
Tuesday in Kanturk saw 160 calves and 300 cattle go under the hammer, with Michael Scanlon commenting, "The trade was okay, a shade better than last week".
The calf trade was "good", with shippers active.
Both bullocks and heifers performed well, judging by the examples shown, with Michael commenting that a lot of sellers did not linger long after the sale, preferring to head home, given that the day was good, weather-wise.
No doubt wishing to catch up on work long delayed due to the weather.
Back ringside, a new arrival all the way from Co Cavan hoovered up ten Hereford and Angus 400 kg store bullocks before heading back north.
Also on Tuesday last, Enniscorthy had 450 cattle on show, where Tom Harrington considered that the effects of the weather were evident on some of the stock present.
"Some of the Friesians looked a little raw," he said.
Overall, Tom felt the trade was back, with those Friesians back in price by "anything from €50 to €150 a head".
But it was still "a nice sale, if a little easier", he said.
He reckoned that given the weather and the factory situation, "Farmer buyers were more withdrawn in their confidence".
The previous day's sale in Bandon saw 300 cattle and 340 calves go under the hammer, with my information being that a near full clearance was achieved, despite a "tightening in prices".
That said, €2 a kilo was achievable for the better cattle, with the calves ranging from €180 to €795 for the better animal.
Weather though is the main concern of farmers in the area, as they continue to battle to get their farms back to rights.
In relation to the factories, and the effect on the mart trade, the attitude of farmer buyers was described to me as being one of, "We know what they're capable of, and we’ll watch and wait and see."
Down in Kilmallock on Monday, Denis Kirby said that they had 1,074 cattle on offer, including 130 cull cows, plus 305 calves, again a very large sale for the time of the year.
The cull cow trade was largely maintained, although "canner cows were easier bought", Denis said.
"Easier bought" is a term that could be used to describe the trade for the plainer bullock, as the Limerick men mirrored the attitude of many buyers across the country; that said, very little stock went home unsold.
Of concern long term though will be the amount of winter feed that may eventually be saved.
A point Denis made to me, commenting, "It’s going to be awful hard this back end for farmers to buy cattle, if they’ve not enough to feed for the winter".
He also noted that certain farmers who had refused to pay the very high mart prices during the spring and early "summer" were seen carefully judging the trade on Monday, with some deciding to test the water.
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