Prices hold firm de­spite ris­ing num­bers at the marts

Irish Independent - Farming - - FRONT PAGE - Martin Cough­lan

‘Now we’ll see what money is in the coun­try,” was the re­ac­tion from one beef fin­isher upon hear­ing that banks maybe about to start charg­ing ac­count hold­ers for keeping money on de­posit.

His worry wasn’t that some might de­cide to empty their ac­counts, but rather a fear that some in the cat­tle trade might de­cide to buy ex­tra stock as se­cu­rity, and drive mart prices even higher in the process.

In re­al­ity, and with­out raid­ing their bank ac­counts for the com­mu­nion money, those buying cat­tle at present ap­pear to have plenty of cash to spend.

De­spite a lot of marts re­port­ing very strong num­bers for the time of year, prices for both bul­locks and heifers con­tinue to hold well.

Bul­locks were in gen­eral up 1-2c/ kg, while prices for heifers up to 600kg eased back by just 1-3c/ kg. The only ex­cep­tion was the 600kg+heifer prices here dropped 7c/kg to €2.08/kg.

The big ques­tion is why are num­bers so strong at marts.

There ap­pears to be no one rea­son. I fully ac­cept that stock have done very well and are prob­a­bly a month to six weeks ahead of most other years.

And with mart prices con­tin­u­ing to re­main strong there is a def­i­nite logic if you’re a seller to mov­ing stock now as op­posed to a month’s time.

What seems to have got­ten lost in the con­ver­sa­tion is the fact that for prices to stay strong, buy­ers have to be will­ing to en­gage at those prices.

There is certainly a se­ri­ous level of con­fi­dence among those pur­chas­ing when you con­sider that cur­rent prices for bul­locks are anything from 19c/kg to 35c/kg stronger than they were this time last year, with heifers cur­rently 18-30c/kg bet­ter.

On the fac­tory side, beef quotes at

€3.70-3.80/kg are roughly 20-25c/ kg bet­ter than this time last year.

Sev­eral mart man­agers over the last month have told me that some of the prices they’ve seen given by fac­tory agents would re­quire a fac­tory price of €4.20/kg just to break even.

Apart from the bet­ter prices, help­ing to pull stock into the marts there also ap­pears to be a feel­ing of un­cer­tainty in re­la­tion to what would hap­pen should a second wave of Covid-19 strike later in the year.

Are some buy­ers stock­ing up now in the hope of avoid­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in ac­quir­ing num­bers should that hap­pen?

Wet field con­di­tions across a lot of the coun­try are also play­ing a part in big­ger mart num­bers as store men chose to lighten the load on their ground.

It’s a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion for those with beef in these ar­eas as they lighten the load on the land ear­lier than nor­mal thus creat­ing ad­di­tional de­mand for re­place­ments ahead of time.

De­spite, or maybe be­cause of, smaller num­bers prices for wean­lings moved up­wards last week with the Ring­side ta­bles show­ing the bet­ter 400-600kg bull up by €52-78/hd which in turn helped to bring his over­all av­er­age up by €40-60/hd.

Wean­ling num­bers are small so far, with one mart man­ager reck­on­ing that they won’t be there as be­fore be­cause of the fall-off in suck­ler num­bers.

That’s a sim­ple but ac­cu­rate ob­ser­va­tion — no suck­ler cow equals no beef calf.

There’s a long way to go to Christ­mas but at this point it looks like be­ing a very in­ter­est­ing back end.

There is a se­ri­ous level of con­fi­dence among buy­ers when you con­sider that prices for bul­locks are 19-35c/kg higher and heifers 18-30c/kg higher than this time last year

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