The mart trade has continued its strong start to 2024, with factory agents driving the trade for heavy cows, heavy bullocks and heavy heifers.

Factory-finished cattle are in high demand, with factory agents competing for supplies of heavy fleshed cows in particular. Weanlings and store cattle also saw a lift in price in marts this week.

Taking a look at this week’s Martbids analysis table, we see that top-quality bullocks in the 500kg to 600kg weight bracket came in at €3.01/kg this week, with 600kg-plus bullocks in the same heavy weight category coming in at €3.17/kg, some 5c/kg higher than the previous week.

Heavy heifers were also a very solid trade, with top-quality heifers over 600kg coming in at €3.12/kg this week.

Even poorer-quality heavy heifers took a big lift this week, up 25c/kg to €2.59/kg.

Average heifers in the 500kg to 600kg weight bracket were up 14c/kg this week to €2.78/kg.

In the weanling rings, it was a similar positive story, with top-quality weanlings up in price.

Light bull weanlings in the 200kg to 300kg weight bracket hit €3.20/kg this week, with top-end 300kg to 400kg weanling bulls coming in at €3.14/kg this week. Top-quality weanling heifers also crossed the €3/kg barrier for 200kg to 400kg weanlings.

Dry cows

The dry cow trade continues to be the highlight of the trade. Over €3/kg was paid in marts at some sales over the last week, which would be far in excess of what suckler cows would be worth in the factory this week.

The tops in the factory for U grading cows this week is €4.70/kg, with a little more going to regular customers and those with numbers.

The manufacturing beef trade is very strong and this is driving the demand for cows.

Mart prices paid by factory agents at the weekend went far in excess of what they are quoting.

A 745kg Limousin cow sold for €2,140 in Tuam on Monday. If this 745kg cow slaughtered the following day at a 53% kill-out, she comes into a 396kg carcase.

That cow is costing €2,190 by the time she is killed with transport, mart fees and factory fees paid. That means the person that bought that cow in Tuam needs to get €5.53/kg to break even on the cow.

If the cow kills out at 52% and a 387kg carcase, the break even moves to €5.66/kg. The agents and buyers that are buying cows in marts this week are buying on order with a guarantee that they get “covered” for whatever they pay.

It’s a similar story in the prime rings over the last seven days as well, with factory agents extremely fit for anything coming near slaughter.

An August 2021-born Charolais heifer in Tuam on Monday weighing 675kg sold for €2,100 (€3.11/kg).

If the same heifer was sent to a factory, she would come into a 371kg carcase at a 55% kill-out. If you add on €50 to cover transport, mart fees and factory fees, she needs to come into €5.80/kg to break even.

If this heifer graded a U=3= in a beef factory at a base price €5.15/kg, she comes in at a beef price of €5.53/kg, some 27 cent/kg or €100/head lower than the mart price paid.