Most sales yards this week have seen yet another surge in numbers, as traditional autumn selling gets into full swing.
With numbers of stock presented for sale in the last three weeks doubled, being around the pens in a mart after the selling has finished isn’t for the faint hearted.
With buyers and yard men sorting and re-penning, moving and loading, it is — as Sean Leahy of Corrin mart put it — "A form of chaos, but organised".
I had caught up to Sean late on Tuesday evening after their sale had finished, but still down the yard and still working.
"Ring me back in an hour," he said. "We had a massive sale, but I should be in the office by then."
"We were flat out busy today, we moved a lot of stock in a good steady trade, although heifers were mental dear," he said later.
Sean reported "a very strong demand for forward cattle, ones that were up in the weight a bit" — driven no doubt by the winter finishers, who continue to drive forward, despite taking a beating some years.
Also in demand was what Sean called "the nice store"; customers for these, he said, were often times "summer grazers", no doubt flushed with sizeable factory cheques and intent on filling their yards for the winter.
The only cattle that Sean considered to be sluggish were the "real plain Friesians, especially any under 400kg, men are just not keen on them," he said.
Another man reporting a big sale with plenty of customers was George Chandler, auctioneer with Kilkenny mart, on Thursday.
Although there was plenty of choice among the 1,250 cattle on offer, George noted that a lot of men were selective about what they wanted. But once they got started, "they drove on very well", he said.
Never one to talk down the trade, George did comment however that allowing for everything, "feed costs and the unpredictability of the factories, God bless their courage".
Prices ranged from €550 to €1,010 with the weight for cattle over 600kg, while the 500 to 600kg bullock made €450 to €870 with the weight.
Mid-range stores of 400 to 500kg made €320 to €660 with the weight, and below that prices ranged from €150 to €660 with the weight, depending on quality.
Moving to Sixmilebridge where Sean Ryan told me they had a full yard of cattle last Saturday. "We expect the same again this Saturday," he said.
"We had plenty of men for store cattle. The shed men were out in force," he said. Prices were strong, with the quality animal again pushing over €2/kg.
The only fly in the ointment, so to speak, was the weanling trade, with Sean telling me that a lot of the shippers were not very keen on anything under 400kg.
"There’s a big demand from Italy, but they have to be 400kg plus, and they are digging their heels in at that weight," he said.
This opened the door for the farmer buyers present to move on the lighter animals, and as their confidence improved, they started "to take on the exporters for everything, and they took them out of a lot," Sean said.
Sean also mentioned that next Saturday will see a special clearance sale of 35 sucklers with 25 Belgian Blue calves at foot.
In relation to special clearance suckler sales. John O’Mahoney of Macroom said they had a very successful one in conjunction with their main sale last Saturday.
The trade for their very large yard of cattle was also successful. "Trade was good all round, with the nicer store making around two euro a kilo, although the plainer Holstein-Friesian is still finding it tougher," he said.
Lesser in numbers however were the bigger factory cattle, with Sean saying, "We had a certain amount, but they were not as plentiful as other weeks".
Turning to their weanling sale, Sean began by telling me that, in his opinion, the quality in that part of the world "seems to have improved a lot this year" — a theory reflected in the fact that farmers were prepared to go to €2.70 a kilo for what Sean called "the good one".
In the cow trade, Sean noted that, "The plainer feeding cow is making her weight, while the better fleshed ones could make €1.65 a kilo".
Examples of the latter included a Friesian cow of 765kg making €1,150, and a Charolais of 610kg making €1,010.
Thurles on Monday saw a big sale, with Martin Ryan saying, "Good cattle have got extremely dear".
"The top end bullock ranged from €528 to €1,360 with the weight," Martin said. The range depends on weight and conformation.
At the other end of the spectrum, the owners of Friesian/Jersey/Holstein crosses were discovering that the market place can be difficult!
Examples of prices for these types included 400kg making €470 and 305kg making €330. Martin said, "Some were sold, others were brought home."
Compared with Angus and Herefords that weighed from 470 to 510kg and made up to €1,000, and some of the better-made British Friesians regularly making from €300 to €380 with their weight, I sometimes wonder who decided crossing Jerseys with Friesian/Holsteins was a good idea.
Martin also said they a surprising number of "finished cattle in bigger bundles" on Monday. "You don’t expect big numbers of them, but they were there," he said.
Up the road in Nenagh on Tuesday, Michael Harty and his staff found new homes for all 1,000 animals that had arrived in their yard that morning.
"A big sale with prices tending dearer," Michael said. "More of a buzz about the place, and the tone of the trade was sharper.
He said farmers were "out to buy", and given the right quality, they "went the whole road". An example of this would be four Charolais bullocks averaging 485kg making €1,250 euro, or €2.58 a kg!
"We had farmers for all types," Michael said, citing the example of seven 230kg bucket-reared black calves that made €420, and 11 Friesians, also bucket fed at 240kg, making €400.
Value? Better than some I’ve mentioned above, possibly.
The previous day, Monday in Kilmallock, over 1800 animals went under the hammer with Denis Kirby telling me that, "The trade held up very well, and held up all day".
This would see the tops of the bullocks breaking the 2.40 barrier".
As in other areas the poorer Holstein was once again "under pressure" Denis said. Overall though Denis reckons that "the shed and winter store men are now well in their stride" as they gradually begin to restock.
"Their grass cattle are gone or nearing readiness and they want to refill their sheds" he said.
I conclude this week with a report from Michael Scanlon of Kanturk mart. Their sale on Tuesday was big and prices were up, he said.
He singled out the plainer store bullock for special mention, saying that, "With more customers around, they made from €180 to €300 with the weight".
Also up in price were heavy bulls, although not present in huge numbers. "Competition was keen", he said. Examples included a Friesian of 1,015kg making €1,500, a Charolais of 1,000kg making €1,600, and an Aberdeen Angus of 800kg clocking €1,480.
All told, it’s been a good week for sellers, and no doubt those buying are of the opinion that they could have done worse.
That said, one mart manager I spoke to considered that if mart prices are to stay as they are, finishers must look for some sort of guarantee from the factories on price.
Or, as another one said, "It’ll be yet again a case of the triumph of hope over experience for those buying".
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